Banned books and other forms of censorship

On the banning of books, censorship and other freedom of access issues

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bahrain: Two convicted for disseminating "subversive" literature

Two individuals in Bahrain face sentencing of up to seven years imprisonment for downloading with intent to distribute literture calling for a boycott of the country's upcoming election. International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) reports:

On November 16, 2006, Dr M. Al Sahlawi (Dentist, age 35) and Mr. H. Al Hebshi (Insurance sales executive, age 32) were arrested by Bahraini authorities after being found in possession of a publication deemed by the authorities to be "subversive literature". This publication, downloaded from the Internet, called on Bahrainis to boycott the parliamentary elections held in November 2006.

Dr. Al Sahlawi and Mr. Al Hebshi had arranged for 1500 copies of the publication to be made and they intended to share it with others. Their expression of support for the ideas contained in the publication was deemed by the Bahraini Public Prosecution to be "favouring and promoting regime change by illegal means, without legitimate reason" and "spreading news and false provocative rumors, which would cause disruptions of public security and damage general interest".

As such, the two men face charges of crimes related to State Security under the Bahraini Penal Code no. 15 of 1976. (The Code has been severely criticized by human rights organizations for the excessive power it grants the government to suppress any dissent).

The Public Prosecutor set forth the charges on the basis of Articles 160, 161 and 168 of the Penal Code, which prescribe prison sentences for possessing or disseminating thoughts and ideas that could "damage public interest". If convicted, Dr. Al Sahlawi and Mr. Al Hebshi could be imprisoned for up to seven years for intending to express themselves and taking steps to disseminate this information to others.

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