Bahrain must immediately release Zainab Al-Khawaja
18 Mar 16

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Index on Censorship calls for the immediate release of human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, who was arrested on Monday 14 March 2016 with her one-year-old son Abdulhadi.

“Zainab Al-Khawaja is facing retaliation for exercising her right to freedom of expression,” said Index’s senior advocacy officer Melody Patry. “Bahraini authorities have been harassing her and her family for years and this arrest — based on absurd charges — further shows Bahrain’s determination to silence its critics.”

Zainab Al-Khawaja is a prominent human rights activist and is currently facing a prison sentence of three years and one month linked to various court cases against her, including for tearing up a photograph of the king and insulting a police officer.

The conditions of Al-Khawaja’s detention at the Isa Town women’s prison are concerning. There is a risk of contracting Hepatitis C in the section of the prison she and Abdulhadi are being held; and she was told to make sure she doesn’t give her baby any water in the prison that is not bottled. Since her incarceration earlier this week, Al-Khawaja has had muscle spasms in her back due to the stress of the arrest and from carrying her baby and bags. She was taken to the hospital on Thursday 17 March, given an injection and a back brace she has wear at all times, her sister, Maryam Al-Khawaja reported.

The Al-Khawaja family have been heavily involved in Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement, and have been continuously targeted by authorities.

Al-Khawaja’s father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, is the head of the 2012 Index Award-winning Bahrain Center for Human Rights and has been serving a life sentence since 2011 for the role he played in the country’s ongoing protest movement which started that year.