x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bahrain rights activist to face military court

The interior ministry accused Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, of tampering with photos of a man who died in custody last week.

Bahrain's leading human-rights activist will be questioned by a military prosecutor, according to the Gulf country's interior ministry that has been leading the crackdown on Shiite protests against Sunni rulers.

The interior ministry accused Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, of tampering with photos of a man who died in custody last week. A statement posted on the ministry's official website late on Sunday said Mr Rajab posted on his Twitter account a "fabricated image" of a detainee, Ali Isa Saqer.

Mr Rajab claims Mr Saqer was fatally beaten in custody. He said that the photo he had posted on his Twitter account was genuine, showing Saqer's body covered with bruises and gashes. Mr Rajab said the campaign against him is aimed at preventing him from documenting human-rights abuses in Bahrain.

Mr Rajab said he has not been contacted by the interior ministry and only learned of the planned questioning from the ministry's website.

"They want to do their crimes in secret," Mr Rajab said of Bahrain's government. "I am one of the few human-rights activists who has not yet been arrested and the government wants to silence me and prevent me from doing my work."

Authorities claim Sager died on Saturday after struggling with guards. A government photo shows few signs of injuries.

Bahrain sharply tightened internet and media controls under the military rule imposed last month to quell protests.

At least 29 people have been killed since February 14 when protests began. Among the dead are also two opposition supporters who died in custody.

Two other former editors of the paper were due in court yesterday over government accusations of running fabricated news reports and false pictures.

Mansoor al Jamri, Al Wasat's former editor-in-chief, denied the allegations. He and the two editors stepped down this month to save the newspaper from a campaign to muzzle anti-government media.

Authorities banned "all media from publishing data and news" on legal proceedings against anybody being tried by the security courts, the kingdom's official news agency said in a brief report on Friday.