Government Cracks Down on International Witnesses as Bahrainis Prepare for Return to Pearl Roundabout
For Immediate Release
Adam Shapiro +353-85-236-0262 (in Ireland)
Jessica Rafael: +973-3345-1787 (in Bahrain)
February 12, 2011
(Manama) – Radhika Sainath and Huwaida Arraf, arrested yesterday while filming police repression of a peaceful demonstration in Manama, have been deported by the Bahraini government.
At approximately 10:00 am this morning, Ms Sainath and Ms Arraf were put on a plane for New York via London, less than eighteen hours after being taken into custody by Bahraini riot police. They were handcuffed behind their backs during the eight-hour flight to London. Ms. Sainath reported being punched in the head three times.
The two women, both US citizens, were arrested on Saturday during a peaceful protest near the Standard Chartered Bank in downtown Manama. Protesters had marched into the city center to assert a presence of nonviolent, peaceful protest leading up to the 1-year anniversary of the Arab Spring movement in Bahrain for equality and democracy.
Both were charged with being present at a gathering of “more than five people with intent to riot,” illegal assembly and engaging in “acts other than tourist acts” while on a tourist visa. Their cameras and computers were confiscated and searched, and police photographed personal information including credit cards and journals.
As the February 14 anniversary approaches, Bahraini authorities have become more aggressive about excluding journalists, human rights observers and other internationals from the country, leading many to fear a brutal crackdown. Radhika and Huwaida are a part of the Witness Bahrain initiative, which arrived in Bahrain in response to a call by Bahraini democracy activists for international observers.
Yesterday, the Bahraini government also blocked access to the website of Witness Bahrain and announced that other members of the group were being sought by police so they could be deported as well.
Radhika and Huwaida will be available for interviews in the coming week to discuss what they witnessed in Bahrain.
Witness Bahrain includes activists from Iowa, Northern California (Sonoma County), San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Minneapolis, Western Massachusetts, and Richmond, Virginia.