Free at last, the Bahrainonline crew have been released WITHOUT bail!
What a relief.
I have a feeling its not the last we'll here from these three. The charges haven't been dropped and the Solidarity Committee will continue its protests till the case is closed. A statistic: the officers had gathered around 700 thousand articles from BahrainOnline.org, of which 10 break the law and NOT written by any of the three. I look forward to their account of events.
Good news is they have been moved to Dry Dock prison where prison standards are higher than Hoora police station. Following the fulfillment of this demand, they quit the hunger strike they started yesterday.
What will the government gain from these arrests? Your guess is as good as mine. Clearly, the defiance shown from the three and their supporters indicates that Bahrainonline will NOT be closed down. Like someone said to me, they can start another 10 Bahrainonline's within a day if need be. What price they are made to pay for this if convicted in a 'court of law' is another issue, today they had a choice, tomorrow after a verdict is announced they probably will not.
The Public Prosecutor has offered the BahrainOnline detainees (Ali, Hussain and Mohammed) to be released on bail for BD1,000 (US$2,650) while the case against them continues. The Trio have however refused the offer because their freedom would still be at the mercy of the Public Prosecution, who could re-arrest them later at its will. Instead the Trio have demanded their release without any conditions, and have opted to remain in prison until then.
The Public Prosecutor in Bahrain are due to announce their decision regarding Ali Abdulemam, Hussain Yousif and Mohammed Mousawi on Sunday March 13. A protest is scheduled in front of the Public Prosecutors Office for 4pm. Since we can't be in Manama for the festivities, let's do our part for the cause.
The Public Prosecutor is due to announce tomorrow (Sunday) whether the detained BahrainOnline trio (Ali, Hussain, Mohammed) will be released, charged or detained for another 45 days for "further investigation". However, it seems like no one is expecting them to be released, and so a plan of action for the coming days has already been announced
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the prolonged detention of an Internet writer, also known as a Web logger, or blogger, and two technicians working with him.
According to sources in Bahrain, prosecutors in the capital, Manama, summoned Ali Abdel Imam on February 27 and detained him. Abdel Imam is the founder and editor of www.bahrainonline.com, which features a blog with commentary about Bahraini news, as well as a discussion forum. Two technicians who worked on the site with Abdel Imam, Mohamed al-Musawi and Hussein Yousef, were arrested on March 1.
A protest has been staged briefly outside a police station in Manama, demanding the release of three Bahrainis detained for their links to a banned website.
A brother of one those detained said he and his fellow demonstrators planned to hold protests once a week before the police station in the capital until the trio are released.
Before the protest even began, 4 people were arrested. For what? No one knows. Half of Exhibition Avenue was blocked off by the police so that passers-by would not be able to see what's going on. The presiding officer demanded that the protest be called off but the organizers refused. So the goon patrol, all dressed up with helmets, shields and batons were dispatched to intimidate the crowd. There must have been 100 goons (with more waiting further back), and about 200 protesters at the time. The goons marched towards the protesters until they were face to face, with barely a metre between the two rows.
Demonstrations in Bahrain are just no fun if some arrests arn't thrown in with a pinch of tear gas for added spice. The extent of the police presence in today's protest demanding the release of the three Bahrainonline website moderators however was unprecedented. The security forces literally formed a wall face-to-face with the protestors that could have led to provocation and confrontation.
Alwasat reported today that the 3 detained website moderators are due to appear before the General Prosecutor this Sunday where they will be either officially charged, detained for longer (maybe another 45 days) or released.
Meanwhile, it seems their incarceration isnt a very pleasant experience. Ok no one expects a 5 star hospitality service, this isn't the UK where you can play snooker all day or do a distance-learning course and leave prison with a PhD at taxpayers expense. No this is Bahrain, where you're not even allowed pen and paper, and cockroaches are man's best friend.
A demonstration will be held this Thursday evening (March 10) in support of the three detained BahrainOnline.org moderators Ali Abdulemam, Hussain Yousif and Mohammed Al-Mousawi. It will take place at 8pm in front of the Hoora police station (on Exhibition Avenue) where the three are being held.
The tensions that arise from attempting democratic reform in an oil-rich society under absolute monarchy were demonstrated last week in Bahrain, where three internet “bloggers” were thrown in jail for insulting the royal family.
Bahrain held parliamentary elections three years ago — women were allowed to vote — but the 70% Shi’ite majority population has continued to complain that the Sunni ruling family retains control through an appointed upper chamber of parliament. Without a fully free press, according to critics of the family, the internet has emerged as a forum for dissent through weblogs. “Every village in Bahrain has one — even the most remote villages,” said a blogger in her twenties. “You get a lot of different opinions on there and you really feel the pulse of the street.” However, government officials also scan these internet forums and the bloggers were arrested last Sunday accused of defaming the monarch, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, spreading false rumours and spreading hatred of the regime on a site (bahrainonline.org) that gets an average of 80,000 hits a day. They could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Last November, however, the king ordered the immediate release of a human rights activist jailed for a year for inciting hatred of the government.
IF THE Bahrain bloggers have transgressed in a relatively benign climate, young Arabs like them are seen by the Americans at Freedom House as the key to democratic mobilisation against tougher regimes.
(Ali Abdulemam - March 1st, 2005 - General Prosecutor's Office)
(Ali Abdulemam - March 1st, 2005 - General Prosecutor's Office)
(Hussain - March 1st, 2005 - General Prosecutor's Office)
Click upon each photo above to view it's enlarged version.
Modern communications is breaking down the gates of censorship in the Middle East, helping spread democracy by denying governments the monopoly they once held on dissimulating information. Now, a growing trend - the proliferation of blogs - is making it all that much harder for governments to police the free-flow of data. In Bahrain, webmaster Ali Abdulemam was arrested Sunday for comments that were published on his site, Bahrainonline.org, a site previously shut down by the Information Ministry in 2002. The government's censure of the Web site proved futile. Friends of the Bahraini blogger simply set up another server outside the country, making it impossible for local authorities to take further action, and allowing local Web surfers to continue to view the site.
I actually think this could be a good first step - acknowledgement that 'hate' exists. Lets not kid ourselves here, government policy is one reason for this 'hate', the betrayal felt after the King backtracked on his promise for the return of the 1973 constitution in 2002 and the LEGACY of the State Security Law era that lasted for 25 years.You're not going to see any posters of the King hung anywhere near my forlorn village in the near future unfortunately.
What I fail to understand is how much time/energy and power the –so called- intelligent officials had put into this case.. Throughout the newspapers of everyday.. news of crime.. corruption, rape, gang beatings and the list just goes on and on and on.. crimes are escalating, people are getting poorer by the day.. graduates are being pumped into the market without proper employment opportunities.. high officials are being prosecuted for dishonesty and bribery crimes out in public.. adultery is no longer convoyed but practiced out in the public.. in places every Bahraini knows.. and still the police finds some time to hold and prosecute people for the expression of thought…
In the United States the discourse about bloggers has mostly concerned whether they pose a risk to traditional media. In some other countries, the authorities apparently are worried that bloggers pose a threat to government control. But now, according to the Committee to Protect Bloggers, another Middle Eastern country—this one a U.S. ally—has cracked down on a blog: Bahraini blogger Ali Abdulemam was taken in for questioning on Sunday. According to the blog Babbling Bahrainia, Abdulemam's Bahrainonline.org "is the beacon of free speech for those who manage to find a proxy to get in from Bahrain, voicing highly critical opinions of the government."
I read that title in an article posted on Bahrainonline in Arabic (موقع الكتروني يهز العرش الملكي). At first I thought this may have been a bit of an over-statement. However, when you look at the charges posited against the Bahrainonline managers of defaming the royal entity, inciting hatred and destabilizing national security, the charges in themselves render support for the above statement! The nature of these charges would lead you to think that Abdulemam and co. are accused of some sort of coup de'etat or armed warfare. No, these charges are referring to the power of the internet in spreading the WORD. This then also says two things, either the forum is very powerful or the throne is very weak. Dare I say it, does the King feel threatened by a few nerds behind a computer screen?
I've just drafted a letter detailing Ali Abdulemam's situation and the ramifications should he be successfully prosecuted. The letter is meant to address the public officials of Bahrain's Western allies.
The point of the letter is to engender a discussion at the top levels and to ensure that those who call for greater freedoms in the Middle East are aware of the path this event is taking us.
This is getting very scary.
This is what you get when there are no laws, or if there are, they are very ambiguous. That's the scary part, not knowing what is allowed and what is not, and finding that red line by trial and error is rather expensive.
I for one don't want to lose a home that I have worked all my life for, nor do I want to lose my and my family's future playing that "trial and error" game, something that is very elastic indeed as there are no rules to define it. It is left to any middle-manager's or judge's whims to decide where it should be.
So it's finally out in the open. A couple of days ago the king stated that he advocates " the government of wise and responsible rulers who loyally take care of the nation's interest." Does anyone else hint in this the whiff of Guardianship?
To thos who aren't familiar, Guardianship is a form of rule advocated by Plato in the republic: The majority of people cannot be trusted with the affairs or choice of government, so a wise and educated elite should be entrusted with this task.
My sources tell me that around 30 names are on the police list of people to be summoned. The investigation is not as light as I thought, and now I can understand why they want to keep them in for 15 days. They are interrogated from 10-6 everyday, using the kind of tedious questioning that leaves them exhausted. Apparantly, the police have thousands of pages of printouts of every single article that has ever criticized the King on the site over the past few years.
Another website manager has been summonded before the General Prosecutor tomorrow. And further websites have been blocked: www.alduraz.net and alduraz.com (although they missed a few other domains which I will not mention just in case the big bad monster is reading-BBM). Seems like it isnt just a BahrainOnline vendetta now, BBM has it's eyes set further.
As stated this morning, the second demonstration in support of the three detained BahrainOnline.org moderators was held this afternoon outside the Public Prosecution building. Again, because it was announced so late (this morning), and it was a weekday, the numbers were the same as yesterday's demonstration: about 50 people. But they did have plenty of signs today.
Hussain Yousif and Mohammed Mosawi appearing before the General Prosecutor today and will be held for 15 days questioning. This leads you to wonder, how many questions can u ask in 15 days??!? Boy I could write my entire autobiography in that time. Meanwhile it is reported that Abdulemam is still being interrogated and is very ill. Maybe its the sheesha-withdrawel symptoms digging in already.
The word about the arrest has spread like wild fire around the media, with a large chunk of the thanks going to forums and bloggers. Will this have repercussions for bloggers? Somehow I have this suspicion that the government is not yet onto the role blogs can play in spreading info. This is most probably because either the government does not know yet about the existence of blogs or they consider them too small a fish to fry at the moment, mainly because blogs are yet to catch on in popularity and readership in Bahrain as forums have.
This is the demo that collapsed the Lebanese government. There is still a lot of power which can be exerted peacefully in the Arab world to effect change.
The irony for us Bahrainis is that this is Lebanon, and not a single Hizbullah flag is in sight. Any demo in Bahrain would be full of them. But that's an aside...
Anger fills me as I just picture the scene of his house, raided by police forces as if he was some kind of a serial killer, without prior notice or a word of warning. And as if that wasn't enough, they drag his sister to be questioned! For the sole reason that Ali used her phone to call the hosting company in the states a couple of times. She was questioned repeatedly if whether or not she knew of Ali's "ACTIONS" and "INVOLVEMENT" in bahrainonline, and his "WRITINGS" that "DEFRAMED" the royalty.
Where is the supposed freedom of speech that they keep trumpetting about? What's written in Bahrain Online is sometimes distasteful and vulgar, but is the correct response to ARREST THE MAN??? Is a moderator responsible for the words of more than 10,000 members? And where is the supposed "state based on institutions."??? I doubt that there has been a thorough investigation by an independent team and unbiased judge here. It is so obvious someone high up the ranks authorized this arrest. Until when will we keep living in a situation where the whims of a couple of people can spell arrests and jail for you and your family? When will this mentality of a supreme all-powerful overlord ordering whatever he pleases disappear?
Our boys, Ali, Mohammed and Hussain will be forced to face a difficult choice: close BahrainOnline.org, wipe out the database or face SEVERE consequences. Will they stand by their principles and rights to free speech and forsake their future? This is the choice they are facing right now in that interrogation room.