It doesn't matter if I'm sentenced to 1 year or 15, the underlying result is if I attempt to go to #Bahrain I will go directly to prison
— Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) December 1, 2014
Maryam and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. Fil photo: Scanpix
Maryam al-Khawaja, a Danish-Bahraini dual citizen and the co-director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, was sentenced in absentia to one year in prison by a Bahrain court on Monday on charges that she attacked a police officer.
The charge stems from a August trip to Bahrain to visit her imprisoned father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. Authorities claim that Maryam al-Khawaja assaulted a police officer at the Bahrain International Airport in Manama.
According to Amnesty International, she was interrogated by the public prosecutor and not allowed to speak to her lawyer. She was released from detention on September 18th and was allowed to leave Bahrain on October 2nd.
She said that she would not participate in her trial due to her claims that her rights were violated under the interrogation.
"It doesn't matter if I'm sentence to one year or 15, the underlying result is if I attempt to go to Bahrain I will go directly to prison. There are members of my family, including my father, who I can no longer see," Maryam Al-Khawaja wrote on Twitter.
"The Bahrain regime thinks they can break us, but this only makes me more determined to continue my human rights work," she added.
The al-Khawaja family have been vocal critics of the Bahraini regime.
Maryam’s father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, has been held in a Bahraini prison since 2011, serving a life sentence for demonstrating against the government and organising protests during the Arab Spring uprisings. In the spring of 2012, al-Khawaja held a 110-day hunger strike that sparked what Denmark’s then Foreign Minister, Villy Søvndal, called the “largest Danish consular effort ever” to obtain his release.
Earlier this year, he staged another short-lived hunger strike that was called off over health concerns.
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja’s other daughter, Zainab, is also facing charges in Bahrain for “insulting” the country’s king by tearing up a photograph of him while in court appealing against two previous convictions for ripping photos of the king, according to Amnesty International.
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja lived in the Copenhagen area for 12 years, during which time he obtained Danish citizenship, before moving back to Bahrain in 2001 to lead resistance movements against the local government. Both of his daughters are dual citizens of Bahrain and Denmark.
Amnesty International strongly condemned the one-year sentence for Maryam al-Khawaja.
“Maryam Al-Khawaja appears to be targeted for exposing the human rights violations taking place in Bahrain since 2011. The authorities must ensure her conviction and sentence are quashed and drop any pending charges against her,” said Said Boumedouha, the deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.