Summary: Human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja detained with her 15-month-old son

Bahrain, March 14th 2016: Bahraini security forces have raided the house of prominent human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja and arrested her with her 15-month-old son. Zainab Al-Khawaja is the daughter of prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who established SRT grantees the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, and has been serving a life sentence in prison since 2011. She is also the sister of Maryam Al-Khawaja, the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, who expressed fears that Zainab’s arrest may be linked to her own campaigning against human rights violations by some members of the Bahraini royal family. Maryam Al-Khawaja has also been charged with “assaulting police officers” while being searched.

Zainab Al-Khawaja has already spent almost a year and a half in prison. She is now facing a prison sentence of three years and one month and a 3,000BD fine linked to various court cases against her, including tearing up a photograph of the King. If the fine is not paid, her prison term will be extended by around a year and a half.

According to Amnesty International, Zainab Al-Khawaja’s convictions are “for nothing more than tearing up photos and seeking to visit her father in prison. If this arrest means the start of her prison sentence, she will be a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.”

Zainab Al-Khawaja is currently being held in Isa Town women’s prison. In a recent family prison visit she expressed concerns over her baby’s health due to poor detention conditions (see

In a joint statement issued on 14 March, SRT grantees the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the Bahrain Centre for Human rights, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and others have called for Zainab Al-Khawaja’s immediate and unconditional release.

Further information from BIRD’s website:

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