Freelance reporter Ali Mearaj was arrested in June 2016, just two months after being released from prison on separate charges also related to his journalism. In October 2017, he was sentenced to life in prison and stripped of his nationality on charges of “belonging to a terror cell.”
Bahraini security forces arrested Mearaj on June 5, 2016, at the Manama airport, his brother Mohammed told CPJ.
On June 28, 2016, Mearaj’s trial began with 17 other defendants, including Al-Wasat journalist Mahmoud al-Jaziri, on the charge of belonging to an Iranian- and Hezbollah-backed terror cell formed by the banned Al-Wafaa political party, according to a tweet from his brother.
On October 30, 2017, a Bahraini court convicted Mearaj, sentenced the journalist to life in prison, and revoked his citizenship, according to a journalist with knowledge of the case who asked to remain anonymous for reasons of security.
Six months before Mearaj was added to the case, the Bahraini Interior Ministry named al-Jaziri, a reporter for the independent daily Al-Wasat, as among those arrested for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks funded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, according to a January 1, 2016, report by the official Bahrain News Agency. On January 4 of that year, al-Jaziri was referred to a special prosecutor for terrorist crimes, who charged him with supporting terrorism, inciting hatred of the regime, contacting a foreign country and giving it information, and seeking to overthrow the regime by joining Al-Wafaa and the February 14 Youth Movement, which has organized protests since the 2011 uprising, according to news reports.
During this time, Mearaj was in prison in relation to a different case, and his name was not mentioned in any of the public announcements concerning the terror case. According to a tweet from his brother Mohammed, Mearaj was not questioned after his new arrest or informed of charges against him before the June 28, 2016 hearing.
Before the new charge, Mearaj had just completed a jail term on charges of "insulting the king" and "misusing communication devices" in relation to posts he was accused of writing on the opposition website Lulu Awal, according to a Facebook post from the Bahrain Press Association.
On May 6, 2019, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld the verdict against Mearaj, according to a journalist with knowledge of his case. No appeals are possible in Bahraini courts beyond the Court of Cassation. CPJ was not able to determine if Mearaj was present for the court session.
The journalist said that as of September 2021 Mearaj is still detained in Jaw Prison and has not reported any health problems.
In September 2021, CPJ emailed the Bahrain Ministry of Interior’s media center asking for comment about the health and treatment behind bars of Mearaj and other imprisoned journalists, but did not receive a response.