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THE CASE OF HUSSAIN HUBAIL
BACKGROUND: media crackdown - including photographers jailed
24th September, 2013 - The authorities continue to crack down on freedom of expression in Bahrain - recently they arrested Khalil Al-Marzooq, who is the political assistant to the secretary general of Al Wefaq. He is to be held in detention for 30 days and investigated on allegations of incitement to commit terrorist crimes. With regard to the judicial system in Bahrain, the BCHR released a report on the Fourth Criminal Court, which has tried many of the cases involving political and human rights activists. The report concludes that in 95% of the examined cases, the defendants were denied access to a lawyer for all or part of their trial. In addition, the court refused to investigate serious allegations of torture. | Read more:
January, 2014 The Bahraini authorities have taken several steps against journalists in recent months in order to suppress coverage of the protests. In fact, a journalist and the editor of a newspaper were killed. Furthermore, currently there are eight photographers in jail in Bahrain, including Hussain Hubail:
- Ahmed Humaidan - was sentenced to 10 years in prison on 26th March, 2014. His appeal is to be heared on 25th May 2014. For further details see Ahmed Humaidan
- Hassan Matooq, a photographer. In March, 2011, he was sentenced to three years in prison for publishing false and malicious news and statements, inciting public contempt and hatred of the regime, participating in an illegal gathering, taking photographs of the protesters at Pearl Roundabout and delivering them to the media tent. He is expected to be released in March, 2014.
- Mahmood Abdul Saleb, photographer, was charged the same offences as Hassan Matooq above. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison in March, 2011, and will also be out in March.
- Qassim Zain Aldeen, a 25-year-old, freelance cameraman who films opposition protests in Bahrain, and has had his work published by local websites and blogs. Accused of participating in illegal gatherings and of vandalism in prison, he was arrested in 2012, and detained for more than 6 months. He was arrested again on Friday 2nd August, 2013, while filming opposition protests in Bahrain. He now stands accused of participating in an illegal gathering and of vandalism in prison. For taking part in an illegal gathering he was initially sentenced to 3 months in prison; but on 5th January, 2014, he was sentenced to 6 months for illegal gathering and vandalism. He still awaits sentencing on 30th April, for vandalism inside court.
- Abdulla Al Jerdabi, photographer, accused of participating in an illegal gathering and of being in possession of iron bars with the intention to attack the police. He still suffers from the beating he received from the police on the way to the police station. He was arrested on 13th September, 2013, and was sentenced on 22nd January, 2014, to six months in prison for illegal assembly and the misuse of social networking.
- Jassim Alnuiami, online activist, scriptwriter and producer of videos. During his arrest on 31st July, 2013, in a raid on his house in Sehla, all his electronic devices were confiscated. Taken to the CID building for 3 days, he was blindfolded and beaten on his head, kidneys and private parts; tortured; threatened and insulted. Lieutenant Fawaz AlSameem, one of his abusers, threatened to rape his mother and sisters if he failed to confess. He is accused of participating in an illegal gathering, publishing false news, using social media to incite hatred against the regime, etc.
- Ahmed AlFardan, photographer, 23 years old, arrested without an arrest warrant on 26th December, 2013. About 16 police cars surrounded his house at around 3 a.m., before some ten masked policemen in civilian clothes raided his home and confiscated his cameras and laptop. Previously he had been arrested on 8th August, 2013, by two plain-clothed policemen who brandished a pistol and punched, beat and choked him. He and his family were threatened with arrest and imprisonment for years unless he cooperated in providing information about the Tamarod rallies, media and journalists, and agreed to photograph clashes and protests for the police. He is now in Dry Dock prison and is being denied the medical attention he needs and access to a lawyer.
1st January to 10th February, 2014 - a total of 146 individuals were arrested and are currently being held in prison, i.e. police conducted 192 arrests and made 46 releases. Thus, during this period the government of Bahrain arrested - on average - almost five individuals per day. Furthermore, the Bahraini judicial system postponed the trials of several detained news and information providers who had been arrested after they covered the anti-government street protests.
Late February, 2014 - the government continues to use excessive force across Bahrain. Brutal injuries caused by shotgun pellets and teargas are seen, particularly in the village of Saar, as the police attack the funeral procession of Ali Musawi. In February there were 216 arbitrary arrests - an average of almost eight a day. At least 3,849 individuals remain in prison as a consequence of such arrests.
10th March, 2014 - some 3,878 individuals remain in detention as a result of arbitrary arrests. An increased number of checkpoints were suddenly installed across Bahrain the previous week, delaying traffic, including ambulances and school buses. A large number of individuals reported being subjected to sectarian harassment from the police at these checkpoints. Six NGOs published a joint statement expressing strong concern over the escalation in violence in Bahrain against peaceful protesters. Amnesty International calls on the authorities not to use the death of a police officer as an excuse to further restrict freedoms.
3rd May, 2014 - The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) releases a report for World Press Freedom Day, out of serious concern for degenerating freedom of expression and opinion afforded to members of the media. The government of Bahrain has continued to target local independent journalists and photographers with arrest and detention in order to obscure any evidence of the ongoing human rights violations. The BCHR has documented at least twelve cases of imprisoned journalists — the majority of whom are photographers — and at least seven reported cases of torture in the last year.
INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS (ICCPR)
Bahrain ratified the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on 20th Sep. 2006. The ICCPR sets out fair trial rights in some detail. There is a dire need for the International Bar Association, OHCHR and/or International Commission of Jurists to observe and monitor trials in Bahrain in order to help press for compliance with ICCPR fair trial criteria. However, in the recent past the Bahraini authorities acted to thwart international monitoring of trials.
BRIEF BACKGROUND TO THE HUSSAIN HUBAIL CASE
Hussain Hubail, is a 21-year-old freelance photographer who took photographs of opposition protests in Bahrain. In May, the independent newspaper Al-Wasat awarded him a photography prize for his picture of protesters shrouded in tear gas. He has been accused of being part of 14th February media network, calling for and participating in unauthorized demonstrations, inciting regime hatred and having connections with some Bahraini opposition members living in exile.
31st July, 2013 - Hussain Hubail is arrested at Bahrain International Airport, on his way to Dubai, and is taken to the Public Prosecutor. Held incommunicado for four days, at CID Office 99, he is forced to stand for three days and is punched and kicked in the abdomen and face. He is exposed to insult and humiliation while he is interrogated, placed in a cold room and deprived of sleep.The interrogation focuses on his photography work and his connection to Twitter accounts related to the protests planned for 14th August. 14th. He and Mohamed Hassan, a blogger, are accused of ”Promoting and inciting hatred against the regime, inciting violation of the law and calling for illegal rallies and gatherings.”
5th August, 2013 - moved to Dry Dock Prison.
7th August – sees the Public Prosecutor and reports that he was been tortured. Sees his lawyer for first time (and the last time in 2103), but not in private.
14th August, 2013 - detained for a further 45 days.
25th September 2013 - detention period extended again.
3rd October, 2013 - Mohamed Hassan, who was arrested the same day, is bailed. He goes to U.K. and applies for asylum.
31st October 2013 - the Public Prosecutor tells Hussain his case will be referred to court. Hussain then returns to Dry Dock prison.
28th November, 2013 – in court Hussain faces the following offences: being connected with the Twitter activities of the Tamaroid rebellion group; involvement in events planned for 14th August, 2013, Bahraini Independence Day; using social media networks to incite hatred of the regime; and calling on people to ignore the law. The judge orders that Hussain be provided with proper health care (a consultant confirms Hussain needs an operation, but it is refused by the prison).
22nd December, 2013 - the court session is cancelled due to lack of witnesses.
27th January 2014 - Hussain is in court along with Jassim alNouami. Lieutenant Fawaz Al Sameem, who tortured Hussain, is summoned to court as a witness.
16th February, 2014 - final pleadings lodged.
13th March, 2014 - Hussain Hubail, suffers from heart problems and has difficulties in breathing. After collapsing five times he is transferred to hospital, where medics use breathing apparatus, ECG, and IV.
16th March, 2014 - court session cancelled due to an appointment with a consultant at Salmanya Hospital.
18th March, 2014 - Hussain is released from hospital and sent back to prison.
31st March, 2014 – court session cancelled
28th April, 2014 – In court, Hussain is not represented by a lawyer, no real defence is presented and no witnesses are called. On facing Hussain Lieutenant Fawaz AlSameem, Hussain accuses him in court of being responsible for his torture and threatening him with rape. Hussain is sentenced to five years in Jaw Prison for participating in a demonstration and inciting regime hatred by taking pictures of police attacking citizens.
30th April, 2014 - a solidarity vigil is held for Hussain Hubail
21st September, 2014 - Husain Hubail appealed against his unfair sentence in the Appeal Court; but his appeal was refused. Husain has been on hunger strike since 14th September. At the Court of Cessation, on 21st October, he will have his last chance to get his five year sentence reduced. Acquittal seems unlikely.
Hussain suffers from bouts of heart muscle contractions, heart spasms, shortness of breath and high blood pressure. Initially the prison authorities ignored his problems, but later granted him emergency admission to Salmanya Hospital on a number of occasions. Once his condition is stabilised, he is sent back to prison.
The medicine he requires daily is only given to him intermittently and he is under continuous pressure and stress in the overcrowded prison.
Hussain has been told he needs an angioplasty operation. This can only be performed in the military hospital by surgeon, Mr Habib Tarif, who is excellent. However, Hussain's parents are concerned about Hussain being operated on in the military hospital, which is part of the military-prison-police set-up that has contributed to the decline in his health. They are also concerned about the lack of post-operative care and medicine.
Professor Prasad, Head of the Cardiology Department at St George's Hospital, Tooting, London, has agreed to assess Hussain, carry out tests and an operation if necessary. The Bahrain Interior Minister needs to be persuaded to release Hussain, and the Health Minister to agree to Hussain having medical treatment abroad.
Because Hussain Hubail has documented official abuses by Bahraini police against protesters, there is concern that he is being targeted to suppress such coverage. It is feared that he may be subjected to revenge and mistreatment because of his role in exposing human rights violations.
Detainees in Bahrain often report that they are subjected to maltreatment, humiliation and violence, and that they experience severe forms of psychological and physical abuse during interrogation. They state they are coerced into making false confessions, some of which are filmed by the authorities and believe that the aim is to punish, intimidate and degrade them during their detention.
Send letters/emails of concern to: His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Minister of Justice & Islamic Affairs, Kingdom of Bahrain, Diplomatic Area, Manama, P.O.Box 450, Kingdom of Bahrain.