New York, September 13, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the ongoing imprisonment of Ahmed Radhi, a freelance journalist who was first detained four months ago after making critical comments about Bahraini-Saudi relations. Radhi now faces terrorism and other anti-state charges which he says were lodged after he was abused and forced into making a false confession.
"Bahrain must halt this practice of prosecuting critical journalists for their dissenting views," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "Authorities should release Ahmed Radhi immediately."
Radhi, a contributor to several local news websites, has been imprisoned since May 16, when he was held for several days without a lawyer present and without his family's knowledge of his whereabouts, the reports said. He was last in court in Manama on August 30, when his detention was extended for 15 days, according to news reports. Although that extension appears to be running out, his next scheduled date was not immediately clear.
The case dates to May, when in press interviews Radhi made comments criticizing a proposed union between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, news reports said. Radhi posted the comments on his Twitter and Facebook accounts, saying the union would justify the occupation of Bahrain by Saudi troops, which had been sent in March 2011 to stifle popular protests. The journalist's family has said they believe his detention is a result of the public comments he had made, according to the Bahrain Center of Human Rights.
On June 16, a local court charged Radhi with "igniting a flame to achieve a terrorist purpose," "possession of flammable substances (Molotovs)," and "participation in assembly to disturb public security and using violence to achieve that," according to news reports. Radhi has told the court that he was tortured into making a confession and made to sign papers he had not read, the human rights group said. No evidence has been provided to support the allegations, the group said.
In a June letter to the human rights center, Radhi said security forces had beaten and blindfolded him and subjected him to physical and psychological torture to force him to confess to the charges brought against him, the Bahraini human rights group reported. In addition to his freelance work, Radhi has also worked for the pro-government daily Al-Ayyam and as a correspondent for the Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar TV before the government withdrew his accreditation, news reports said.
Bahraini authorities have used anti-state charges to imprison other critical journalists. On September 6, an appeals court upheld a life sentence given to Abduljalil Alsingace, a prominent independent blogger and human rights defender, on charges related to "plotting to topple" the regime, according to news reports.
In the past 19 months, journalists in Bahrain have endured the worst conditions since King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa assumed the throne in 1999. CPJ has documented three journalist deaths, including a videographer killed in April; dozens of detentions; arbitrary deportations; official smear campaigns against journalists; and numerous physical assaults.
- For more data and analysis on Bahrain, visit CPJ's Bahrain page here.