Target: Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain
Goal: Release activist jailed for criticizing airstrikes against another country as violations of international law.
A man has been jailed after his political party criticized the bombing of Yemen by Saudi Arabia. Sign the petition and demand that this prisoner of conscience be freed immediately and that the country of Bahrain respect its citizens’ rights to freedom of peaceful expression.
Saudi Arabia has recently carried out a series of airstrikes against Yemen. The Unitary National Democratic Assemblage (al-Wahdawi party), Bahrain’s opposition party, denounced the strikes as violations of international law. The party’s leader, Fadhel Abbas Mahdi Mohamed, was arrested the same day that Bahrain announced its support for Saudi Arabia’s actions and pledged to punish anyone who spoke out against them.
Abbas was tried and sentenced to five years in prison for “spreading false information that could damage military operations of Bahrain and its allies and calling for resistance.” His trial is part of a larger pattern of a crackdown by the Bahraini government on what it deems “seditious” or “divisive” speech. However, Abbas has never advocated or carried out acts of violence, and his sentence is a clear violation of his internationally-recognized freedom of expression. Sign the petition and demand that the charges against him be dropped and that he be freed immediately.
In politics, opposition parties can operate as part of a valuable checks and balances system. However, that system ceases to function if the ruling party silences any and all instances of peaceful dissent. Furthermore, jailing people who peacefully disagree with government policies is a clear violation of the internationally-recognized right to freedom of expression. I therefore urge you to release al-Wahdawi party leader Fadhel Abbas Mahdi Mohamed from prison and to respect the rights of Bahraini citizens to peacefully express their own political views.
Abbas was arrested after his party issued a statement condemning Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes on Yemen as violations of international law. He was charged with “spreading false information that could damage military operations of Bahrain and its allies and calling for resistance,” tried, convicted, and sentenced to five years in prison. And he is not the only one arrested under such circumstances; other party members and activists have been arrested for criticizing the government.
Abbas has never used or advocated violence, and his criticism of a well-publicized event nullifies any arguments that his speech constitutes a security risk. He has committed no crime and is therefore a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately. I demand that the charges against him–and similar charges brought against other activists–be dropped.
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Photo credit: 참여연대 (People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy)