Mahmoud al-Jaziri, arrested in December 2015, was a reporter for the now-defunct independent newspaper Al-Wasat, the last independent newspaper in Bahrain. Al-Jaziri was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of belonging to a terrorist group and stripped of his citizenship.
Police arrested al-Jaziri at his home in Nabih Saleh Island south of the capital Manama, on the morning of December 28, 2015. He was allowed to call his brother later that day to say he was being held as part of a criminal investigation, local human rights groups and Al-Wasat reported.
The Interior Ministry named al-Jaziri 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. That announcement came amid a diplomatic rift between Iran and Saudi Arabia and its allies, including Bahrain, after Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shiite cleric Nimr Al-Nimr. It also followed years of official persecution—including the 2011 death in custody of a founding investor—of Al-Wasat staff.
On January 4, 2016, two days after al-Nimr’s death, al-Jaziri was referred to a special prosecutor for terrorist crimes who charged him with supporting terrorism, inciting hatred of the regime, having contacts with a foreign country, and seeking to overthrow the regime by joining the Al-Wafaa Islamic Party, the banned political group, and the February 14 Youth Movement which had organized anti-government protests, according to news reports. The Interior Ministry statement carried by Bahrain News Agency listed al-Jaziri and three co-accused as members of an armed wing of Al-Wafaa that was plotting bombings in cooperation with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah.
On October 30, 2017, a Bahraini court convicted al-Jaziri of belonging to a terrorist group, sentenced the journalist to 15 years in prison, and revoked his citizenship, according to reports. A journalist familiar with the case, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, told CPJ that authorities did not provide written copies of the verdict explaining the court’s decision on sentencing to al-Jaziri’s lawyer.
Mansoor al-Jamri, editor-in-chief of Al-Wasat and CPJ’s 2011 International Press Freedom Awardee, told CPJ that al-Jaziri denied the charges and told prosecutors his relationship with Al-Wafaa did not extend beyond proofreading the group’s public statements, an activity he stopped after becoming a professional journalist in 2012. Al-Jamri said al-Jaziri covered parliamentary news for Al-Wasat.
Al-Jaziri was arrested on the same day that Al-Wasat published his report on a member of parliament’s proposal to deny housing to Bahrainis whose citizenship had been revoked for political activities.
According to a Facebook post by the Bahrain Press Association, al-Jaziri’s family said he was blindfolded for an unspecified number of days after his arrest. The family said he was banned from sitting or sleeping for three days during questioning and before he signed a confession, unaware of its content.
On May 6, 2019, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld the verdict, according to the journalist with knowledge of his situation. CPJ could not determine if al-Jaziri was present at the court for the session.
In April 2020, al-Jaziri was moved to solitary confinement for at least four days after he released a recording from Jaw Prison reporting on the facility’s lack of containment measures for COVID-19, according to Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the independent, London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.
Alwadaei told CPJ that in April 2021, prison guards beat al-Jaziri with a baton while transferring him and other inmates to another building in an incident the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy recounted in a memo to the U.N. Human Rights Council and shared with CPJ. According to the memo, guards insulted al-Jaziri and forced him and other prisoners to sing anti-Shi’a Islam songs. At the new building, guards kept al-Jaziri handcuffed in a cell without a mattress and denied him and other inmates access to clean clothing, showers, and hygienic products for one week. The inmates were also denied permission to pray for that week, the memo said.
As of late 2022, CPJ could not confirm whether al-Jaziri had any new court appearances, charges, or what the status of his health is in prison.
CPJ emailed the Bahrain Interior Ministry’s press office in September 2022 for comment on al-Jaziri and the cases of other Bahraini journalists in prison, but did not immediately receive a response.