Ali Mearaj

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

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 Bahrain’s 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 political group Al-Wafaa Islamic Party, according to a tweet from his brother.

On October 30, 2017, a Bahraini court convicted Mearaj, sentenced him to life in prison, and revoked his citizenship, a journalist familiar with the case told CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing fear of retaliation.

The Bahraini Interior Ministry arrested al-Jaziri in 2015 for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks funded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah. On January 4, 2016, al-Jaziri was charged 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 public announcements concerning the terror case. According to a tweet by his brother, Mearaj was not questioned after his 2016 arrest or informed of charges against him before the June 28, 2016 hearing.

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 by the Bahrain Press Association.

On May 6, 2019, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation, the country’s highest court, upheld the verdict against Mearaj, according to the journalist familiar with the case. CPJ was not able to determine if Mearaj was present for the court session.

As of late 2023, Mearaj was detained in Jaw Prison. In August 2023, media outlets reported that inmates in Jaw Prison staged a mass hunger strike to protest conditions, though CPJ could not confirm whether Mearaj participated. After 36 days, prisoners suspended the strike following authorities’ pledges to improve conditions. 

As of late 2023, Mearaj did not have any new court appearances, charges, or convictions. 

CPJ emailed the Bahrain Interior Ministry’s press office in late 2023 for comment on Mearaj and other Bahraini journalists in prison but did not receive a response.