The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is gravely concerned over the continuing judicial harassment of whoever exercises his/ her right of free speech, particularly through the use of social media.

On 27 January 2015, nine men, Mohammed Saeed Al Adraj, 24 years, Mohammed Ahmed Ali, 21 years, Yousif Fadhel Salman, 21 years, Abas Ali Ahmed, 21 years, Kameel Ibrahim Yousif, 19 years, and Hussain Mohammed Ahmed, 22 years, were arrested over charges related to free expression. The Ministry of Interior stated that these men have misused social media and they could face an imprisonment term of up to two years or a fine of up to BHD200 according to article 215 of Bahrain’s Penal Code which punishes with these terms whoever “offends in public a foreign country or an international organization based in Bahrain or its president or representative. The same penalty shall apply to a person who offends such organization’s flag or official emblem.” It’s believed that the posts of concern have been critical to the late Saudi king Abdulla Alsaud.

Recently, the Government of Bahrain has escalated its repression and targeting of free speech through judicial harassment, since 2012, numerous individuals were tried and sentenced to more than 408 months in prison for merely exercising their rights to free speech, while more than 186 months imprisonment were handed down in 2014 alone.

Just last week, on 20 January 2015, the prominent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, was sentenced to 6 months in prison over a conviction related to a tweet he published in September 2014. The international community has been outspoken about the case of Nabeel Rajab and calling on the Government of Bahrain to respect human rights and free speech. Another example of targeting free speech, is the recent case against the former Member of Parliament and Al-Wefaq’s head of Shura Council, Sayed Jameel Kadhem, who was sentenced to 6 months in prison and a fine of BHD500 on charges of “disturbing the elections” for comments he made on Twitter.   

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemns the arrest of the nine internet users yesterday and calls for their immediate release and based on the escalation of the repression exercised by the Bahraini government on freedom of speech, we call for the international community to intensify its efforts in pressuring the Bahraini government to drop all charges and release all of those who are being sentenced for exercising their internationally protected right to freedom of expression.

The BCHR calls on the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States and other national and international bodies to:

- Publicly call for the Government of Bahrain to release the 9 individuals;

- Apply pressure on the Government of Bahrain to halt any further judicial harassment on the 9 individuals; and

- Urge the Bahraini government to repeal laws that infringe upon the internationally protected right of free expression.