Bahrain: Poet and writer arrested; fears for their safety

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English PEN is deeply concerned about the arrests of poet and student Ayat Al-Gormezi and writer and journalist Abbas Al-Murshid who have been held since 30 March and 15 May 2011 respectively. They are believed to be detained for their peaceful dissident activities and have reportedly been tortured in detention. We call for their immediate and unconditional release and seeks urgent guarantees of their safety, and respectfully remind the Bahraini authorities of their obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a state party.

According to our information, 20 year old Ayat Al-Gormezi was arrested on 30 March 2011 after reading poems at a pro-democracy rally in Pearl Square in which she criticised the ruling family and asked for transparency. She was forced to turn herself in when masked police threatened to kill her brothers unless she did so. She has not been seen since her arrest, although her mother spoke to her once by telephone and Ayat said that she had been forced to sign a false confession. Her mother has since been told that her daughter has been in a military hospital after being tortured.

Ayat Al-Gormezi appeared on 2 June 2011 before a military tribunal in Manama on charges of ‘insulting the king, taking part in banned gatherings, and spreading false information.’ The trial has been adjourned until 12 June 2011, when a verdict is expected to be delivered. She is the first woman to go on trial following the unrest and it is feared she will face a heavy prison term if convicted. An excerpt of one of Ayat al-Gormezi’s poem follows, translated from the Arabic by Ghias Aljundi:

We do not like to live in a palace
And we are not after power
We are the people who
Break down humiliation
And discard oppression
With peace as our tool
We are people who
Do not want others to be living in the Dark Ages

Abbas Al-Murshid is a well-known Bahraini writer and researcher, and a frequent contributor to the Bahraini daily Al-Waqt as well as numerous online publications. He has written about Bahrain’s social unrest, corruption, institutional discrimination and other topics considered sensitive by the government. He was summoned on 15 May 2011 to appear at Al-Naeim police station for interrogation and has not been seen since. No charges have yet been made against Al-Murshid. On 16 May 2011, he called his family to tell them that he had been placed under arrest and then the line was disconnected. Al-Murshid has been previously arrested on several occasions in relation to his writing and many of his books have been banned in Bahrain. At the end of January 2009, Al-Murshid was hit above his eye with a rubber bullet in a targeted attack and had to be admitted to hospital as a result.  

Background

Protests, led by Bahrain’s majority Shia community, against the government’s policies have been underway since mid- February 2011. The Bahraini security forces have responded with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Dozens of civilians have reportedly been killed and many more wounded. The Bahraini government declared a State of Emergency on 15 March 2011 and brought in troops from neighbouring Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia to help suppress dissent. The State of Emergency was lifted on 3 June 2011 but the detainees arrested under that law are still in detention.

For further information, please see:

The Independent (2 June 2011)

Committee to Protect Journalists (17 May 2011)

TAKE ACTION

Please send appeals:

- Expressing serious concern about the arrest of Ayat Al-Gormezi and Abbas Al-Murshid;
- Calling for their immediate and unconditional release;
- Urging the Bahraini government to drop any charges against Ayat al-Gormezi that may infringe her right to freedom of expression;
- Seeking immediate guarantees that they are not tortured or ill-treated in detention;
- Urging the Bahraini authorities to abide by their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and to end the violent crackdown on those who are peacefully expressing their opinions.

Send appeals to:

His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa
King of Bahrain
Office of His Majesty the King
P.O.Box 555
Rifa’a Palace
Kingdom of Bahrain.
Fax: 973 176 64 587

Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
P.O.Box 450
Al-Manama
Kingdom of Bahrain.
Fax: 973 175 31 284

Please also send copies of your appeal letters to the diplomatic representative for Bahrain in the UK:

His Excellency Shaikh Khalifa bin Ali bin Rashid Al Khalifa
Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
30 Belgrave Square,
London
SW1X 8QB
Fax: 020 7201 9183
Email: ambassadorsoffice@bahrainembassy.co.uk

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/wipcnews/bahrainpoetandwriterarrestedfearsfortheirsafety/

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