2016: US Journalists Arrested on February 14 Anniversary, Charged with “Illegal Assembly” (Timeline)

2017-01-08 - 7:19 p

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Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The Bahraini authorities' decision to arrest a US journalist team in 2016 was an event that redirected the attention of international media to Bahrain. The independent American journalist Anna Therese Day and three members of her camera crew were arrested, while covering protests marking the fifth anniversary of the February 14 uprising in the Sitra area, south of the Bahraini capital Manama.

The Interior Ministry highlighted in a statement issued on February 15, 2016 that it apprehended a US journalist during their participation "in attacks on police alongside other rioters in Sitra," which had witnessed widespread protests on the uprising's fifth anniversary.

The ministry claimed the journalists in custody were "suspected of offences including entering Bahrain illegally, having submitted false information to border staff, and participating in an unlawful gathering," adding that necessary legal procedures were made and that the case was referred to the public prosecution.

Following the detention of the US journalist team, many statements were issued by international groups that advocate press freedom, denouncing Bahrain's actions. Reporters Without Borders said urged Manama to release the four American citizens "rapidly and without harm." The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also called for the immediate release of the American journalists, stressing at least six other reporters are being held by the kingdom over their work.

For their part, Anna Day's family, through a representative, demanded Day's immediate release along with her three colleagues.

Bahrain's public prosecution office announced on February 16, 2016 that it ordered the release of the group "pending the completion of the investigation," after interrogating them in the presence of their lawyers. The prosecution charged the US journalists with illegally assembling with the intent to commit a crime, disrupt public security and subject transportation means to danger.

Despite charging them, Bahraini officials allowed them to head for the airport, apparently after the intervention of the US Embassy in Manama, and after they spent one day in detention.

Anna Day revealed that during her arrest, alongside three of her colleagues, their captors wouldn't permit them to call the US embassy, their lawyers, or their families. She stressed that they were maltreated, deprived of water, food, medicine, and sleep, further stating that each of the four Americans was separately questioned about their sources and one another. The tone of the interrogation changed when we refused to disclose the names of the people they met in the island kingdom, she added.

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