Bahrain acquits officer on charges of torturing a journalist

New York, October 24, 2012–CPJ is alarmed by a Bahraini court’s acquittal of a police officer accused of torturing a journalist in custody in 2011.

A criminal court in Manama on Monday acquitted police officer Sara al-Moussa on charges of torturing Nazeeha Saeed, a reporter for France24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya, while the journalist was in custody in May 2011, according to the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA). The agency reported that the court ruled that Saeed’s testimony was full of “contradictions” and not “consistent.” Saeed told CPJ that she and her lawyer are urging prosecutors to reopen the case.

Police arrested Saeed while she was covering anti-government protests in the capital on May 22, 2011, according to news reports. Saeed told CPJ that during her 13-hour detention, al-Moussa and the other officers blindfolded her, beat her repeatedly with a hose, pulled her hair, slapped her in the face, dunked her head in a toilet, kicked her, and forced her to sign papers she was not allowed to read. The journalist, who was later examined by a doctor, submitted several medical reports to the court proving she had sustained bruises from the incident, she said.

Saeed told CPJ that the government had not taken any serious steps to investigate the case for several months. In January 2012, she filed her own complaint against al-Moussa, three other female police officers, and one male officer on torture accusations, news reports said. The court only tried al-Moussa, according to news reports. The officer’s trial began on June 6 and the verdict was reached on Monday, after five months of legal back-and-forth, the reports said. No action has been taken against the other four police members, news reports said.

Last year, Saeed was a witness in the trial of two police officers who were charged with killing two protesters, news reports said. The officers were acquitted in September, the reports said.

“Bahrain’s failure over the past 20 months to fully investigate attacks against journalists covering protests and prosecute those responsible calls into question the verdict of this court,” said CPJ Deputy Director Rob Mahoney. “Prosecutors should not let this case rest. Nazeeha Saeed deserves justice.”

CPJ research shows that since February 2011, independent and opposition 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 shooting death in April; dozens of detentions; arbitrary deportations; government-sponsored billboards and advertisements smearing journalists; and numerous physical assaults. In April, authorities denied CPJ and several other press freedom and free expression groups visas to enter Bahrain.

  • For more data and analysis on Bahrain, visit CPJ’s Bahrain page here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This alert has been modified to reflect that Saeed’s complaint was filed against four policewomen, including al-Moussa, and one male officer.