May 1, 2012

King of Bahrain
His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King
P.O.Box 555
Rifa’a Palace
Kingdom of Bahrain
Fax: +973 176 64 587

Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa
Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
P.O. Box 450
Kingdom of Bahrain
Fax: +973 175 31 284

Minister of Human Rights and Social Development, Acting Minister of Health
Dr. Fatima al-Balushi
Ministry of Human Rights and Development
Kingdom of Bahrain

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,000 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to protest the continued detention of academic, blogger, and human rights activist Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace and human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

According to our information, on April 30, 2012, the Court of Cassation ordered a re-trial of 21 opposition activists, writers, and bloggers convicted of “plotting to overthrow the government” for their peaceful opposition activities. Among them are Dr. Albduljalil al-Singace and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, both of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment for reporting on human rights abuses in the country. None of the defendants were present at the hearing, which ruled that all detainees were to remain in detention until a new verdict is reached. A date has yet to be set for the re-trial in a civilian court.

Dr. Al-Singace and al-Khawaja were convicted by a special security court on June 22, 2011, and sentenced along with six other defendants to life imprisonment. Their appeal was heard on September 6, 2011, and their sentences were upheld on September 28. PEN supported a trial observation mission by British Barrister Sarah Elliott to Bahrain and found that the trial did not meet with international standards of fairness. There have also been allegations that the two men were tortured in pre-trial detention as they were held incommunicado. Al-Khawaja has pledged to continue his hunger strike, which he started on February 8, 2012, to protest his detention and ill-treatment. His wife claims that he has been force-fed although Bahraini officials claim that he agreed to all procedures. His family says he is in critical condition.

Dr. Al-Singace taught engineering at the University of Bahrain and is the head of the human rights office of the Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is the founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Gulf Center for Human Rights.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned for the well-being of Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who continue to be detained in violation of their right to free expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a signatory. We demand a full independent investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and urge the authorities to provide the men with access to all necessary medical attention. We call for their immediate and unconditional release and the release of all those arrested and charged in Bahrain solely for their peaceful exercise of their right to free expression.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the U.S.
Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
3502 International Drive NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 362-2192

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