Two sentenced to jail for circulating 'detrimental article'

01/31/2007 09:58 PM | By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: A Bahraini court yesterday sentenced two activists to prison for possessing and distributing leaflets containing an article deemed detrimental to public interest. The verdict was immediately condemned by Al Wefaq, Bahrain's largest opposition society, as "unjust and incompatible with the reforms".

Dr Mohammad Saeed Al Sahlawi, a 35-year-old dentist, was sentenced to one year while Hussain Abdul Aziz Al Habshi, an insurance employee, 32, was given six months by the lower criminal court in a trial that drew criticism from several international organisations.

Al Sahlawi and Al Habshi were arrested on November 16, nine days before the quadrennial parliamentary elections, for possessing and distributing an article written by a Bahraini dissident living in London calling for regime change and for the boycott of the polls.

The public prosecution subsequently charged them with "promoting the change of the state system through illegal means and without a legitimate reason", and "spreading false news and rumours, which would cause disruption of public security, and damage public interest".

According to articles 160, 161 and 168 of the Bahrain penal code, the pair faced up to seven years in prison.

Their arrest sparked a series of demonstrations in several locations of the country asking for their immediate release. Activists also enlisted support from several international groups, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch.


Haq Movement, the only formation to oppose the parliamentary elections, and the now-dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights spearheaded the protests to drop the charges.

"The harsh ruling has shocked Bahraini citizens who have come to see freedom of expression as an integral part of their rights. It targets the peaceful freedom of expression and undermines the reforms," Al Wefaq said in a statement.