Bahrain: Tweet Leads Human Rights Activist to Prison

Sayed Yousif Almuhafda is the Vice President and Head of the Documentation Unit at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). He is also a member of rights groups Front Line Defenders and Amnesty International. He was arrested on December 17th as he was monitoring a non violent demonstration in the capital Manama and reporting about it on Twitter.

Sayed Yousif was charged with spreading false information on his Twitter account. He is being especially accused, among other things, of posting a photo (link contains graphic content, reader discretion is advised) on Twitter on December 17, of an injured young demonstrator actually taken two days earlier.

In a letter sent to Global Voices Advocacy, Sayed Yousif's family says that while he is in good spirit, he believes that his arrest is politically motivated—an attempt to stop him from doing his job as a human rights observer:

Sayed Yousif believes that he was unnecessarily taken [by the police] while performing his job of observing a march in Bahrain [...] For such charge he should not be kidnapped by police in civil clothes during the protest and be surrounded by at least 30 riot police. He says that they could have sent him an official request to show in front of a public prosecutor and spare him the jail.

Sayed Yousif believes that his detention is a pure revenge for his job of exposing human rights violations during peaceful protests and he feels that it is a message to him to stop reporting the violations in Bahrain.

On December 25, Sayed Yousif appeared before the prosecutor-general in Manama who decided to extend his detention for 15 additional days. A decision condemned by freedom of speech advocates like media watchdog Reporters Without Borders who posted the following statement:

Muhafda is yet again paying for his commitment to the circulation of information about human rights violations in Bahrain [...] The authorities must stop their repeated violations of freedom of information and allow news providers to operate freely.
The information provided by Bahrain’s human rights activists is all the more important as the authorities limit visits by foreign journalists and often obstruct the reporting of those who are allowed in.

This isn't the first time Sayed Yousif is arrested for his reporting of human rights abuses in Bahrain. On November 2, 2012, he was detained for 12 days after covering a violent police crackdown on a demonstration in Diraz, west of Manama.

#FreeSaidYousif campaign poster, posted on Twitter by @OsamaJaleel

Sayed Yousif was last visited on December 25 in the Hoora police station, in the northeastern suburb of Manama. According to his family, he is being isolated from other political prisoners, put in a cell along with non-Arabic speaking common-law prisoners.

In a message sent to Global Voices Advocacy, his brother Sayed Osama Almuhafda (@OsamaJaleel) writes:

This is another form of punishment to him. He has no one to communicate with.
All other freedom of speech and political prisoners are kept together in the “Dry Dock” prison [the Ministry of Interior’s Short-Term Detention Unit in Manama], except for Sayed Yousif. We believe that his case is totally cruel and unjustified!

Sayed Yousif's family calls upon all human rights’ advocates to put pressure on the Bahrain government in order to make sure he gets a fair trial and a treatment equal to that of all other freedom of speech prisoners.

Ways you can help

You can follow Sayed Yousif's Twitter account, @saidyousif, or tweet under the hashtag #FreeSaidYousif and show your support.

You can also reach out to the media and human rights organizations and tell Sayed Yousif's story to the world.

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