Bahraini 'blog father' goes missing; police raid family's home

Index on Censorship has been alerted to this urgent news from the Bahrain Human Rights Society:

Ali Abdulemam, known by his nickname “the blog-father” for setting up the first free uncensored online forum in Bahrain for political and social debate, is today missing from his home and his family are unable to establish contact with him.

His uncle described the scene last night when 50 heavily armed policemen came to arrest him, just a few weeks after he was released as a part of concessions to placate Bahraini protesters. He had been accused of being part of an “organisational cell” and was known as one of the 25, who were arrested for plotting to overthrow the government.

At around 1.15am on 18 March the housing complex in Aali where Ali rented a flat from one of his cousins awoke to hear the metal gate outside being riddled with bullets.

Around 50 masked and heavily armed security personnel then proceeded to break down the wooden door of the house. Ali’s cousin, his cousin’s wife and daughter were asleep in the ground floor flat. They burst in on them before the wife or the daughter had a chance to cover up and demanded to know where Ali was while pointing a gun at their faces.

They replied that Ali and his wife had not been home for three days and they had no idea where he was. Incensed that their repeated questions were not yielding any results, they trashed the house and then moved up a floor where there were two more flats and kicked the doors in.

One was Ali’s flat that had been vacated a few days ago in response to the growing threats, and the other belonged to another family who had nothing to do with the situation. The other family were also not there and it is believed that Ali may have hinted to them to stay with relatives.

After tearing the flats apart and breaking everything they could, they filled a large suitcase with every kind of camera, hard drive, video recorder or DVD that they could find. They then returned to the terrified occupants of the ground floor and repeated their demands, this time threatening to take the daughter instead.

The father and mother said they would take their daughter only over their dead bodies. After a short stand-off the police backed off, possibly realising that the family really had no idea where Ali or his wife and children were. They had left the house three days previously for a secret location, but had been phoning family members to reassure them of their safety. Now the lines of communication are dead and the family have no idea if he is in Bahrain or if he managed to get out of the country, or if the police have caught up with him.

Other attacks and arrests are also reported in Bahrain. In a release today, the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International is “deeply concerned” about the reported re-arrest of academic and human rights activist Dr Abdul-Jalil Alsingace on 16 March 2011 following a violent crackdown on peaceful opposition protestors in the capital, Manama.