Opponents Accused of Conspiring to Overthrow the Regime

The Public Prosecutor in Bahrain has accused three opposition leaders of conspiring to overthrow the regime on 21 January 2009. The three have been summoned by the court for questioning on 26 January 2009 regarding their alleged connection with a group of detainees accused of participating in a terrorism plot. The three are: Hassan Mushaimie’, Secretary General of Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy in Bahrain (an unauthorised society), Abduljalil Al-Singace, Chief of the Human Rights Committee in the same movement and Sheikh Mohammed Al-Habib Al-Moqdad. All the three persons were summoned to appear before the Public Prosecutor but they declined to do so because the summon order had failed to give reasons for the questioning as required by article 137 of the Bahrain’s Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

An official source in the Public Prosecutor office has announced that an arrest warrant was then issued in accordance with article 140 of CPC in order to bring them forcefully for questioning. The specific charges that have been brought against them include taking part in establishing an illegal association which opposes the Bahraini constitution, and which uses terrorism as a means of achieving its goals, calling and propagating for the overthrow of the regime by force, preventing the authorities from performing their duties and propagating for the hatred of the regime. On the basis of the above, the Public Prosecutor has decided to detain two of the accused for two weeks and has released Al-Singace on bail but prevented him from leaving the country.

Hassan Mushaimie

The arrests sparked riots in many villages between the Bahraini riot police and pro opposition protesters which lasted, according to some news agencies, well into the night and caused disruption to the traffic in many areas amid the heavy presence of the Bahraini anti-riot forces. Alwafaq Islamic Society has demanded an immediate release of all three accused, stressing that Mushaimie’ is well known for his non-violent political activities. The Society also believes in the need of dealing with all issues without resorting to security solutions.

On the other hand, Amnesty International issued a statement on 30 January 2009 expressing serious concerns about the continued detention of the two opposition figures and allegations against the 13 young men accused of the terrorism plot as well as criticizing the broadcasting of their confessions on the national TV. In a letter to the Interior Minister, Amnesty International called for an urgent and independent investigation into allegations of torture. It also requested a prompt clarification of the exact reasons for the continued detention of Hassan Mushaimie’ and Mohammed Al-Moqdad, and questioned whether the two were held solely because of their non-violent political activities, including criticism of the government. If so, Amnesty International would then consider them to be “prisoners of conscience” and calls for their immediate and unconditional release. In addition, the organization urged that all detainees be humanly treated and have regular access to their lawyers, families and medical care.

It is worth mentioning that the detainees' lawyers have attended the investigation from the very beginning, and are able to meet with them regularly, as are their families. The Public Prosecutor confirmed that all detainees are getting the necessary care including medical care. According to human rights organizations, Bahrain has not witnessed any “prisoners of conscience” since 2001, for no one has been convicted solely on the basis of the peaceful expression of their opinion.

On 1st February 2009, the Public Prosecutor commented on Amnesty International's report by saying that the investigations have so far been conducted with the approval of the detainees themselves and the presence of their lawyers. He added that all legal aspects and required guarantees are being fully considered, observing that 'there are no prisoners of conscience in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and that no one has been detained merely due to their views, in accordance with international human rights standards', stating that the case being investigated by the Public Prosecutor is related to highly dangerous crimes and not to issues of public conscience or freedom of expression.