International NGO’s call for dropping of all charges against Khalil Almarzooq

With the third hearing session in the case of opposition leader Khalil Almarzooq due to take place tomorrow, a group of international NGO’s has called for the immediate dropping of all charges against him describing them as “a pretext for a politically motivated attack” and as “entirely without substance”.

The statement, initiated by No Peace Without Justice, includes US based NGO Freedom House, Parliamentarians for Global Action, the Institute for International Law and Human Rights, as well as local NGO’s including Bahrain Human Rights Observatory. Individual signatories also include a number of members of the European Parliament, in addition to the petition that was signed by dozens of global Parliamentarians.

The statement says that the targeting of figures such as Khalil Almarzooq undermines efforts towards reconciliation and dialogue, saying “In order for the government of Bahrain to prove its willingness to engage in a dialogue with the opposition, they must stop targeting leading opposition figures.”

Tomorrow morning will see the third session of the trial in which Almarzooq is accused of inciting violence, although the NGO’s reject this describing Almarzooq as having “worked tirelessly to encourage and inspire nonviolent and peaceful protest by the opposition and others in Bahrain”. He was arrested in September and held for 30 days before being released on condition of a travel ban.

Click here to read the statement, or below.

On the eve of the third trial hearing in the case of Khalil Almarzooq, No Peace Without Justice and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty, together with Freedom HouseParliamentarians for Global Action and other international and Bahraini NGOs are releasing a joint statement calling on the Bahraini authorities to drop all charges against Khalil Almarzooq,  leading opposition politician and former Deputy Speaker of Parliament.

On 8 December 2013, Pete Weatherby QC, a member of the UK Bar Human Rights Committee who planning a visit that included acting as an international observer to the coming trial of Khalil Almarzooq, was refused entry into Bahrain and immediately deported after arriving at the Manama airport. This incident further casts doubt about the Bahraini authorities willingness to ensure a fair legal judicial process.
Joint Statement: Bahrain must drop all charges against Khalil Almarzooq

The authorities in Bahrain should immediately drop all charges against Khalil Almarzooq, leading opposition politician and former Deputy Speaker of Parliament. Mr Almarzooq is the Political Assistant to the Secretary-General of Al Wefaq Society, the main opposition party involved in the National Dialogue.

Khalil Almarzooq was arrested on 17 September 2013 and detained for more than 30 days before being released on bail at a hearing on 24 October 2013. He is charged with inciting terrorism and violence. At another hearing on 18th November 2013, his case was once again postponed to 12th December 2013 and he is banned from traveling until at least then. If Mr Almarzooq is found guilty, he faces up to 15 years in prison and the possibility of his citizenship being revoked, as stipulated in the recent anti-terrorism laws

The charges against him are nothing more than a pretext for a politically motivated attack on an individual who has been vocal in his advocacy of democracy and human rights in Bahrain. Mr Almarzooq has worked tirelessly to encourage and inspire nonviolent and peaceful protest by the opposition and others in Bahrain. Internationally renowned, he has delivered this message both internally and around the world, as part of his political efforts. The charges against him are entirely without substance.

Targeting Mr Almarzooq further undermines the efforts towards the National Dialogue process that the Bahraini authorities have been touting, while failing to deliver on any meaningful reform program.  In order for the government of Bahrain to prove its willingness to engage in a dialogue with the opposition, they must stop targeting leading opposition figures.

We are also concerned by the claims of Mr Almarzooq’s defence team that they were not informed of the specific charges prior to the hearing. In addition we call on the authorities to end its delaying tactics by postponing the trial dates. We fear this is being used to continue to apply unnecessary pressure on the opposition, in order to keep the case open.

We therefore call on the authorities to ensure that a fair legal process is fully upheld. In addition we call on the international community to unite and stand by Mr Almarzooq and his peaceful struggle for a pluralistic, open and democratic society in Bahrain.

A peaceful solution to the current human rights’ crisis in Bahrain will be achieved only if figures like Mr Almarzooq as well as all prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders, who are committed to peaceful, nonviolent  democracy, are free to fully contribute to the process.

Signatories

No Peace Without Justice
Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty
Freedom House
Parliamentarians for Global Action
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
The Arab World Center for Democratic Development
Bahrain Press Association “BPA”
Bahrain Coalition Observatory for Human Rights
Droit au Droit – Right to Law
Institute for International Law and Human Rights
Individual signatories include Members of the European Parliament, among whom Ana Gomes, S&D Group, Niccolo Rinaldi, ALDE Group, Sarah Ludford, ALDE Group, Sari Essayah, EPP Group, adding their voices to the legislators who already called for the immediate release of Khalil Almarzooq in a global petition previously released by Parliamentarians for Global Action.

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