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Ambassador Shaikh Abdullah bin Rashed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa
Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
3502 International Drive NW, Washington DC 20008
Phone: 202 342 1111 I Fax: 202 362 2192
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Ambassador
Bahraini-Danish human rights defender and prisoner of conscience, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, has been convicted and fined in two separate cases on 28 November 2022 by the Second Lower Criminal Court, following an unfair trial. He was denied his right to be represented by a lawyer of his choosing and to be tried in his presence. Al-Khawaja has so far spent more than 11 years of an unjust life sentence in Jaw prison for leading peaceful protests during the 2011 popular uprising in Bahrain.
He was most recently convicted for breaking a chair and insulting a public servant in November 2021 while in Jaw prison after he was denied phone calls to his daughters who live abroad and fined 60 Bahraini dinars (equivalent to 160 US dollars). In a second case, Al-Khawaja was convicted of insulting a public servant and fined 100 Bahraini dinars (equivalent to 265 US dollars), in relation to an incident on 30 March 2022 when Al-Khawaja protested against the normalization deal with Israel (Abraham Accords) and had an altercation with a prison officer. According to a Public Prosecution document, the second case had included a charge of “insulting a foreign state”, in reference to Israel. Al-Khawaja’s lawyers have not yet been able to determine whether this charge is still pending. If brought forward, he could face up to two more years in prison and a fine.
According to court records of a hearing session held on 21 November, the presiding judge noted that Al-Khawaja was not present in court, whilst also acknowledging his lawyer’s request to postpone the hearing until he has been able to obtain power of attorney to represent his client. On 23 November, the head of the Second Lower Criminal Court addressed a letter to the General Director of Jaw prison specifying that the court had no objection for facilitating the signing of the power of attorney. Nevertheless, on 28 November, in Al-Khawaja’s absence and without his lawyer able to defend him due to the lack of power of attorney, the judge proceeded in issuing his verdict in both cases. On 29 November, the prison authorities finally allowed Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja to sign the document granting power of attorney to his lawyer. Amnesty International understands that he is appealing both convictions.
Given that Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is a prisoner of conscience targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of his human rights, we call upon your Highness to ensure that he is immediately and unconditionally released, his convictions and sentences are quashed and any new charges brought against him dropped. Pending his release, he must be granted regular access to his family and lawyers of his choosing.