Bahrain wants Britain to expel activists

The Gulf Cooperation Council – of which Bahrain is a member – has called on Britain to expel two Bahraini Shia opposition figures.

The pair – Hassan Mushaima of the Haq movement and Saeed al-Shehabi of the Bahrain Freedom Islamic Movement – are among 23 activists who were accused at the weekend of forming a terrorist network and plotting to overthrow Bahrain's Sunni-dominated government. They are currently in London.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Britain is seeking consular access to one of the men arrested in Bahrain – Ja'afar al-Hasabi, who has dual Bahraini-British citizenship, and has allegedly been tortured.

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch called on the authorities to stop threatening Nabeel Rajab and Abd al-Hadi al-Khawaja, two prominent members of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). A report in the pro-government al-Watan newspaper has claimed they are linked to a "terrorist network". 

"This crude and unfounded public attack on Rajab and al-Khawaja is particularly distressing in light of reports from the BCHR and others about interrogations of persons arrested in connection with this so-called network," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. 

"In addition to distressing allegations of torture, the interrogations appear to be focused on entirely legitimate contacts these individuals may have had with local and international rights groups."

The Committee to Protect Journalists has also protested at the detention of Ali Abdel Imam, founder of the BahrainOnline website (reported here yesterday). 

"The arrest of Ali Abdel Imam is a disturbing development in Bahrain's attempts to censor coverage of its crackdown on dissent," the CPJ said. "We call on the authorities to release him immediately and lift the gag order on journalists covering such arrests."

According to Abdel Imam's Facebook page, he was summoned to the offices of the National Security Apparatus (NSA) on Saturday. Next day, the official Bahrain News Agency claimed he had been arrested while "trying to flee to Qatar".

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 8 September 2010.