June 10, 2011

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

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

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding the arrests of poet Ayat Al-Gormezi and writer Abbas Al-Murshid.

According to our information, on June 2, 2011, Ayat Al-Gormezi, a poet and student, appeared before a military tribunal in Manama on charges of “insulting the king, taking part in banned gatherings, and spreading false information.” The trial has been adjourned until June 12, 2011, when a verdict is expected to be delivered. She is the first woman to go on trial following the recent unrest, and it is feared she will face a heavy prison term if convicted.

Al-Gormezi, 20, was arrested on March 30, 2011, after reading her poem, “Khalifa,” in which she criticized the ruling family and asked for transparency at a pro-democracy rally in Pearl Square. She was forced to turn herself in after masked police threatened to kill her brothers. She has not been seen since her arrest, though her mother was able to speak to her once by telephone, when Al-Gormezi told her that she had been forced to sign a false confession. Her mother has since been told that her daughter has been in a military hospital after being tortured.

On May 15, 2011, Abbas Al-Murshid, a well-known writer and researcher and frequent contributor to the Bahraini daily Al-Waqt as well as numerous online publications, was summoned to appear at Al-Naeim police station for interrogation. He has not been seen since. On May 16, 2011, Al-Murshid called his family to tell them that he had been placed under arrest. The line was quickly disconnected. No charges have yet been made against him.

Al-Murshid, who has written about Bahrain’s social arrest, corruption, institutional discrimination, and other topics considered sensitive by the government, was previously arrested on several occasions because of his writings. Many of his books have been banned in Bahrain. At the end of January 2009, he was hit above the eye with a rubber bullet in a targeted attack and had to be hospitalized.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that arrests of Ayat Al-Gormezi and Abbas Al-Murshid are endemic of a brutal crackdown on peaceful activists demonstrating in Bahrain since mid-February 2011. We believe that Al-Gormezi and Al-Murshid have been targeted in violation of their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a signatory, and we therefore call for their immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all others being held for the peaceful expression of their views.

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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