July 15, 2011

BAHRAIN (UPDATE TO RAN 28/11): Poet released

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International welcomes the release on July 13, 2011 of poet and student Ayat Al-Gormezi (f), one month after she was sentenced to one year in prison on anti-state charges for poems critical of the Bahraini King. Ayat Al-Gormezi’s family fear that she remains at risk of re-arrest since the sentence against her has apparently not been revoked.

PEN continues to call for the charges against Ayat Al-Gormezi to be quashed, and for the immediate and unconditional release of all those who remain detained in Bahrain for the peaceful expression of their views, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a signatory.

According to PEN’s information, Ayat Al-Gormezi, aged 20, was freed unexpectedly on July 13, 2011, and hundreds gathered around her home in Sadad to welcome her. No reason has been given for her release, although it is thought that international pressure may have been a contributing factor. Some 200 others have been released after months in prison, human rights groups reported.

Al-Gormezi had been arrested on March 30, 2011 after reciting protest poems at a pro-democracy rally in Pearl Square in the capital, Manama, in which she criticised the monarchy and called for greater democracy. She handed herself in after police raided her house and threatened her family. Her trial began on June 2, 2011 and she was sentenced on June 13, 2011 by a special security tribunal on anti-state charges including inciting hatred towards the regime. The trial did not comply with international standards of fairness. On June 21, 2011 an alleged forced confession by Al-Gormezi was broadcast on state television.


Protests led by Bahrain’s majority Shia community against the government’s policies have been underway since mid- February 2011. The Bahraini security forces have responded with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Dozens of civilians have reportedly been killed and many more wounded. The Bahraini government declared a State of Emergency on March 15, 2011 and brought in troops from neighbouring Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia to help suppress dissent. The State of Emergency was lifted on June 3, 2011 but many of the detainees arrested under that law are still in detention, including Abduljalil Alsingace who was sentenced to life imprisonment on June 22, 2011.



This update does not include a petition.