A present for the judge

In Bahrain, a woman can be and is arrested for tearing up a photograph of the king. HRW reports.

A Bahraini rights activist jailed for ripping up a photo of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in court on October 14, 2014, should be released immediately. Bahrain should drop all freedom-of-expression related charges against the activist, Zainab al-Khawaja, who is eight months pregnant and has been charged with insulting the king.

Al-Khawaja was in court to face charges relating to two previous incidents in which she also tore up photographs of the king as a form of protest. She was arrested again in the courtroom and, on October 15, the public prosecutor charged her with insulting the king and ordered her detention for another seven days.

For the “crime” of ripping up a photo. It would be laughable if this weren’t a real woman with a real pregnancy in a real jail.

Zainab al-Khawaja is the daughter of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence in relation to his calls for political reform in Bahrain. Her mother, Khadija al-Mousawi, told Human Rights Watch that at the start of court proceedings on October 14 her daughter addressed the judge, stating that “It is my right, and my responsibility as a free person, to protest against oppression and oppressors.”

She then took a photo of King Hamad, ripped it up, and placed it in front of the judge, who immediately adjourned the hearing. Authorities arrested her immediately and she spent the night in Isa Town detention center.

In September 2012, she was sentenced to two months in prison for ripping up a photo of King Hamad. In early February 2013 she was imprisoned on charges that included illegal gathering and insulting police officers. She was released in February 2014. She is now facing six outstanding charges, five of which, according to information provided by her lawyer, clearly violate her right to free expression, Human Rights Watch said.

She sounds like one heroic woman.


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