2019 Roundup: Loyalty not Enough for Govít Anymore, Sunni and Muslim Brotherhood Activists New Target of Security Apparatus in Bahrain

2020-01-21 - 3:13 p

Bahrain Mirror (2019 Roundup): 2019 was a gloomy year for the Al-Fateh Coalition and the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated movement. In 2019, the security services' grip expanded to reach Sunni activists, after it was previously confined to Shiites.

On April 14, 2019, the security authorities summoned "Akhbar Al-Khaleej" newspaper journalist, Ibrahim Al-Sheikh, to interrogate him about an article he wrote in the newspaper entitled "Misleading Media and our Military Calamity", and decided to detain him pending investigation. Governorate Chief Prosecutor Abdullah Al-Thawadi stated "he received a communication from the Cyber Crime Directorate saying an individual had posted on his social media account rumors that would harm national security, public order and interest. The Public Prosecution's investigations revealed that the individual had published on his social media account information questioning the government policies and its external relations, in addition to circulating false information that would undermine confidence in the coalition forces' capabilities and that their successes are merely false and misleading."

Al-Sheikh published an article on April 10, 2019, criticizing the coverage of "Al-Arabiya" Channel correspondent, naturalized Iraqi Mohammed Al-Arab, of the war in Yemen. "An analyst appeared on Abu Dhabi TV with his head down and talked about how the information he was transmitting about the victory in Yemen was incorrect and that he was deceived by misleading information. His source was a news anchor who talked about the imminent entry of coalition forces into Sana'a since 2017; however, it was later revealed that all his information and video reports were not true. He was speaking of an imaginary victory and advance while the real information was quite the opposite; but his information was a source of strength for Houthis because it was not presenting the whole truth. A just cause does not need a false anchor who distorts the justness of a cause, but rather needs media people and anchors who speak with honest consciences and without a price," he wrote.

The Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defense and National Security issued a statement (April 11, 2019) attacking the writer and calling for holding him accountable.

"We know well the agenda of the writer as well as his suspicious ties with the Qatar-supported terrorist Muslim Brotherhood", said the statement. "We still recall the stances of the writer who repeatedly appeared on Aljazeera channel to staunchly defend the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt and incite unrest and revolution." The Committee urged the Public Prosecution and other competent authorities to take decisive measures against any attempt to target Bahrain's military or question the credibility of its participation in the operations conducted by the Arab Alliance in Yemen. This is what happened indeed as only two days after the issuance of this statement, the writer was summoned for interrogation at the Public Prosecution and was remanded pending investigation. He was charged with "spreading and broadcasting false news and rumors in wartime that would undermine the nation and cause damage to national security and public order." 

The writer was released on April 18, 2019 after the Prime Minister intervened. He wrote an article in the same newspaper on April 19, 2019 in which he apologized for insulting the military.

Apparently, this was not enough, as he was soon suspended from writing. Al-Sheikh posted a tweet on his Twitter account (July 22, 2019) saying that he was banned from writing due to orders issued from outside Akhbar Al-Khaleej newspaper.

In the same context, security authorities arrested former Al-Menbar Society MP Mohammed Khalid on April 16, 2019, after he was summoned for interrogation at the Public Prosecution.

Acting Chief Prosecutor said the suspect "posted tweets on his personal account that contained false and unfounded news and information that would harm public order (...) showing that he used incorrect news and information and built upon it negative opinions that question the performance of the authorities and their ability to maintain security and protect society, and that express losing confidence in the ability of the country's concerned institutions to play its role in this regard."

He said in a tweet on his account: "They achieved what they wanted. Ibrahim Al-Sheikh's column disappeared from Akhbar Al-Khaleej newspaper." He was released on April 18, 2019 after the Prime Minister's intervention.

Leaked information indicated that security officers threatened Sheikh Mohammed Khalid with his mother, who was brought to him to prison, so that he would close his account. Khalid deleted his Twitter account @boammmar as soon as he was released. He said in a video clip that he deleted his account so that his mother would not worry about him.

On May 15, 2019, the Public Prosecution decided to detain lawyer Abdullah Hashem for one week pending investigation. The Prosecution accused him of "abusing his personal account by publishing false news that would harm public order."

As part of its efforts to release him, the Bahrain Bar Association met with the Attorney General (May 16, 2019) to file a petition to release Abdullah Hashem under any guarantee the Prosecution sets and with bail, if necessary. It said "the Attorney General expressed his personal interest in the situation of the colleague and pledged to consider the requests made to him in order to issue a final decision that satisfies the audience and benefits the legal community."

He was released on May 21, 2019, but "his phone was seized being considered a crime tool to be confiscated in case of conviction, which means that the case is ongoing and that the release does not mean the end of case," lawyer Hashem said after his release.

Bahrain's Public Prosecution summoned (April 18, 2019) online activist Abir Al-Jalal, former member of the Bahrain National Unity Assembly and Al-Fateh Coalition, as well as political activist Ibrahim Al-Manai. They were questioned about tweets on their social media accounts.

Although the figures mentioned are considered to be prominent figures in Al-Fateh, none of the coalition's societies or representatives issued a public stance concerning them or demanded their release.

In the context of the crackdown on Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the weekly Al-Naba'a newspaper, affiliated with the Muslim brotherhood and which has been publishing since its establishment in 2008, stopped issuing on November 27, 2019. The newspaper claimed that it stopped due to restructuring. It said "the decision to restructure the institution demands halting publication until another launch is prepared that would meet the demands of the digital media market." However, information indicated that the actual reason for its suspension is the authorities tightening their grip on this group, especially after it held a seminar during which it criticized the conditions and restrictions imposed on the work of political societies.

On June 15, 2019, former parliamentarian Osama Al-Tamimi, known for his bold views, turned to the US Embassy for protection. He requested to leave Bahrain safely out of fear for his life and his family members' lives.

In a video, he reported being targeted, persecuted and constantly threatened by the authorities, specifically by members of the Bahraini Interior Ministry. He also spoke of being chased and forced out of his car by members of the Interior Ministry who were wearing civilian attire and driving civilian vehicles. He was also unable to obtain the embassy's protection because it was on a day off, which led him to end his sit-in at the embassy's gate after receiving a promise from a security official that no one would target him.

On November 18, 2019, the Anti-Cybercrime Directorate summoned Sunni activist Aref Al-Mulla for interrogation. His interrogation reportedly focused on opinions he had made on social media in which he criticized the Electricity Ministry for installing inaccurate meters.


Arabic Version