Bahraini dictatorship’s hacking of computers in Britain


This 13 May 2013 video is called UK spyware used against Bahraini activists – Ala’a Shehabi.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

UK police asked to investigate alleged Bahraini hacking of exiles’ computers

Rights group Privacy International files complaint that officials illegally monitored devices of pro-democracy trio in UK

Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent

Monday 13 October 2014 11.16 BST

The police National Cyber Crime Unit has been asked to investigate claims that computers and mobile phones used by exiled Bahraini pro-democracy activists living in the UK are under illegal surveillance.

A complaint about Bahraini officials’ alleged monitoring of the devices was compiled by the civil liberties group Privacy International (PI) and submitted to the Metropolitan police on Monday.

The remote interference is said to have started after Dr Saeed Shehabi, Jaafar al-Hasabi and Mohammed Moosa Abd-Ali Ali inadvertently downloaded malicious software or had their machines infected by the programs. The intrusive technology is able to copy and transmit documents, remotely turn on cameras and microphones to record, as well as send emails from other people’s accounts, according to PI.

It said the technology involved was FinFisher, software once owned by Gamma International, a company that used to be based in Andover, Hampshire, but is now run by a firm based in Germany.

The complaint is partially based on evidence published in August by Bahrain Watch and WikiLeaks, which, it is said, details exchanges between Bahraini officials and Finfisher staff who were providing technical support.

The three men allegedly targeted are human rights activists who oppose the current regime in Bahrain and have been granted asylum in the UK.

Moosa Abd-Ali Ali and Hasabi had both been detained and tortured in Bahrain. Shehabi has been sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia and had his Bahraini citizenship revoked.

“We often had the feeling that they were spying on us but we had no physical evidence of intrusion,” said Shehabi, 60, who is a journalist. “I have lived here since 1971. I thought I was under British protection.”

His only direct evidence of computer interference was when his Twitter account inexplicably began following more and more people; on another occasion, he said, his daughter’s travel plans were disclosed to Bahraini government officials. Three years ago his home in the UK was the target of an arson attack.

Hasabi, 43, an IT specialist, said he had received numerous emails which he did not open because they appeared suspicious. He was alarmed to see his computer’s details appear in the WikiLeaks list online.

Moosa Abd-Ali Ali, 33, a TV camera operator, said: “Many times I received notices from my friends that I had sent them emails when I had not. Once I opened up my Facebook page and found that someone was writing it. Later I found it had been deleted. On other occasions I received notices from Gmail saying someone had tried to hack into my account.

“When I first came to the UK I felt safe but I don’t any more. They have hacked my computer.”

PI said: “It is clear from the Gamma documents published online that among those targeted by the Bahraini government with FinFisher technology were Mohammed, Jaafar and Saeed, along with prominent Bahraini opposition politicians, democracy activists and human rights lawyers.

FinFisher was developed and produced by the British company Gamma International. Promotional material for FinFisher shows that it allows its user full access to a target’s infected device and everything contained within it, even enabling them to turn on functions such as cameras and microphones.

“Reports from the Citizen Lab suggest that FinFisher command and control servers have been found in 35 countries, including Ethiopia, Turkmenistan, Bahrain, and Malaysia.”

The National Cyber Crime Unit is part of the National Crime Agency. Earlier this year PI made a similar complaint to police about alleged surveillance of the computer of an Ethiopian activist living in the UK.

Commenting on the alleged surveillance of the Ethiopian, a Metropolitan police spokesperson said: “On 28 February 2014, we received an allegation that a man in Islington had had his computer accessed without authorisation. This matter is currently under investigation by Islington CID.”

PI alleges that surveillance carried out by Bahraini authorities amounts to unlawful interception of communications under section 1 of the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) 2000.

FinFisher and its previous owner Gamma have previously claimed they only sold their products to responsible governments. The German-based firm did not respond to requests for a comment, nor did the embassy of Bahrain.

See also here. And here.

Bahraini government, with help from FinFisher, tracks activists living in the UK: here.

FinFisher spyware used to snoop on Bahraini activists, police told. Gamma International on the end of UK criminal complaint: here.

Privacy International files criminal complaint on behalf of Bahraini activists targeted by spyware FinFisher: here.

G4S Bahrain to provide manned and electronic security to [Saudi] Al Arab News: here.

Bahraini government news agency mourns ‘dead’ ISIS fighter


This video says about itself:

Bahrain: Rights Activist Speaks Out Before Arrest

3 September 2014

Maryam al-Khawaja, speaking in May 2014 in London, expresses her fears that she will be arrested on her return to Bahrain, and her intent to continue to engage non-violent activism and civil resistance.

From Al-Manar daily in Lebanon:

Bahrain Official News Agency Mourns ISIL Dead Gunmen

Local Editor

Despite the involvement of Bahraini warplanes in strikes against the positions and goals of the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Levant’ (ISIL) takfiri organization and other terrorist groups, policies adopted by Bahraini authorities confirm they sponsor terrorist groups, according to accusations repeated by activists.

Considering the fact that the majority of those recruited in terrorist organizations are elements who came from Bahraini security and military institutions, the-kingdom-run news agency (BNA) mourned the Bahraini gunmen Abdulaziz Al-Jowder, 19 years, dubbed as Abu Hajar, one of ISIL members who was killed recently in Iraq.

BNA published official announcement of condolence entitled “Abdul Aziz Nizar Ali Mohammad Al-Jowdar … passed away.”

It said that Abdulaziz Nizar Ali Mohammad Al-Jowder, 19 years, has passed away. Men condolences to be received in the Jassim Al Zayani lounge starting from this afternoon, and that of women are to be received in his father’s house.

Later, BNA omitted the news from its website, after knowing that Jowdar has communicated with his family denying his death.

11-10-2014 – 14:35

Bahrain: Arbitrary Detention of Nabeel Rajab | Letter: here.

Bahrain rights activist charged over insulting tweets: here.

The source, who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity, claimed that the penetration of IS ideology into Bahrain’s security organisations has been made easier by an ongoing government policy to recruit Sunni police officers from Yemen, Syria, Jordan and Pakistan, many of whom the source said shared the same belief system as IS: here.

Egyptian, Bahraini human rights activists speak


This video says about itself:

GV Face: Alaa Abd El Fattah and Maryam Al Khawajah on Hunger Strikes and Protests in Egypt and Bahrain

9 October 2014

Hundreds of political prisoners are currently on hunger strike in Egypt and Bahrain.

Up until a few weeks ago, both our guests in the episode of GV Face, Maryam and Alaa were on hunger strike and in jail because of their activism.

We will be talking to them about their activism, the struggles they face in Bahrain and Egypt and the hopes that keeps them resilient about their country’s future.

In Egypt, some hunger strikers have been in jail since anti-regime protests broke out on January 25, 2011. In Bahrain, which has been witnessing anti-regime protests since February 14, 2011, more than 600 political prisoners have gone on hunger strike to protest torture in jail.

Hunger strikes are frequently used as a method of non-violent resistance during which activists fast as an act of political protest to raise awareness about pressing issues they support — or their own plight. During the fast, hunger strikers refuse to take solid food and rely on liquids only, putting their own lives at risk.

Among them is political activist Mohamed Soltan, a 26-year-old Egyptian-American, who has been on hunger strike in an Egyptian prison for more than 250 days in an effort to fight for his freedom. He was arrested on August 25, 2013, and is facing trial for a number of terror charges in connection to his involvement in demonstrations at Rabaa Square on August 14, 2013, where more than 800 Egyptian protestors opposed to the ousting of Egypt’s first democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi were killed in one single day. Soltan was shot in the arm and arrested a few days later from his home.

Another political activist who started a wave of hunger strikes across Egyptian prisons and outside the walls of detention centres is Alaa Abd El Fattah, who was released on bail on September 15, 2014, after being sentenced for 15 years in prison. He was convicted of attacking a police officer and violating a 2013 protest law that prohibits unauthorised demonstrations.

In late August, Abd El Fattah began a hunger strike, days before the death of his father, prominent human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif El Islam.

After an appeal by his lawyers, Abd El Fattah was issued a retrial in August 2014. On Sept 15, 2014, the presiding judge recused himself from the case after an incident a week earlier, in which the prosecution presented a video depicting Manal Hassan, Abd El Fattah’s wife, dancing. Taken from Hassan’s laptop, which confiscated by police when Abd El Fattah was arrested and taken from his family’s home in November of 2013, the video bears no discernible relationship with his political activities. In another twist during the trial, the judge ordered that the aforementioned video be presented to the prosecutor general and placed under investigation for violating Abd El Fattah’s privacy.

Abd El Fattah has been jailed or investigated under every Egyptian head of state who has served during his lifetime. In 2006, he was arrested for taking part in a peaceful protest. In 2011, he spent two months in prison, missing the birth of his first child. In 2013, he was arrested and detained for 115 days without trial. And he now faces 15 years in prison. He is now out on bail, awaiting a re-trial.

In Bahrain, which has been witnessing anti-regime protests since February 14, 2011, more than 600 political prisoners went on hunger strike to protest against being tortured in prison.

Among them is human rights defender Abdul Hadi Al Khawajah, who has been jailed since April 9, 2011, and sentenced to life imprisonment for calling for the overthrow the regime. On February 8, 2012, Al Khawajah started an open-ended hunger strike “until freedom or death” protesting the continuing detentions. His protest lasted for 110 days, until his health deteriorated and he was force-fed by the authorities. In August this year, Al Khawajah entered his second hunger strike, which lasted a month. On the 27th day of his hunger strike, his daughter, human rights activist Maryam Al Khawajah, who like hundreds of other Bahrainis is forced to live outside her country, returned to Bahrain to see her father. She was arrested at the airport, and detained, accused of hitting a member of the police force. Maryam denies the charges. In detention, she started a hunger strike. Both she and her father have since stopped their strike. Her father remains in prison, while she has once again left the country after her release and the lift of a travel ban imposed upon her after her arrest.

In this edition of GV Face, we will speak to both Maryam and Alaa about their experiences, as they both continue to champion for the rights of the men and women in their countries.

See also here.

Jailed Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab


This 8 October 2014 video is called Who is Nabeel Rajab? International organizations in solidarity with Nabeel Rajab, #BAHRAIN.

On October 1, 2014, 12-year-old Malak Rajab excitedly welcomed her father Nabeel home following a three-month trip to Europe, where he had advocated for human rights and democratic reform for his home country of Bahrain. Only a few hours after his return, however, Nabeel Rajab found himself in a Bahraini prison cell, arrested once again for his work as a human rights defender: here.

Freedom House Report Labels Bahrain as Worst of the Worst for Press Freedom: here.

Bahrain: Ongoing detention of leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab: here.

Anti-humanitarian Bahrain government, ally in ‘humanitarian’ war


This video is called Bahrain: Human rights hero Nabeel Rajab arrested for a tweet.

From LobeLog in the USA:

October 9th, 2014

Fighting for Democracy While Supporting Autocracy

ISIS and Bahrain’s F-16

by Matar E. Matar

For the second time in recent history, the United States is trading away support for democracy and fundamental human rights protections in Bahrain as part of an effort to establish democracy and human rights protections in another Muslim country.

In March 2011, while the Obama administration was building a coalition to defeat Qaddafi in Libya, Saudi and Emirati troops were rolling toward Bahrain to reinforce a massive crackdown against unarmed pro-democracy protesters.

In her book, Hard Choices, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reveals how a very senior Emirati official pressed her to mute US opposition to this invasion if she wanted the UAE to join the anti-Qaddafi campaign. “Frankly, when we have a situation with our armed forces in Bahrain it’s hard to participate in another operation if our armed forces’ commitment in Bahrain is questioned by our main ally,” she quotes him as saying. It worked. Later that same day, in stark contrast to the US State Department’s response to the Russian intervention in the Crimea, Clinton issued a statement intended to soothe Saudi/Emirati concerns, saying in essence that their intervention in Bahrain was legitimate.

At that same time, large parts of the Bahraini population were being subjected to beatings, torture and imprisonment that had never occurred in the history of our country. Given our inability to protect our people from such abuse, several colleagues and I decided to resign our positions in Parliament in protest. I was then arrested while trying to inform the world about the casualties from excessive force and extensive torture. But Secretary Clinton was at peace with the trade-off: “I felt comfortable that we had not sacrificed our values or credibility,” she wrote in her memoir.

Today Bahrain is facing a similar situation. The US needs the appearance of strong Arab cooperation against the Islamic State (not because the US actually needs assistance from Bahraini F-16s), giving the Bahraini regime an opportune time to force bad deals on the people of Bahrain without criticism from Washington.

This time the regime is moving ahead, claiming that it has achieved consensus through what has clearly been a phony “National Dialogue”—the government’s response to international pressure for reconciliation after the repression of the pro-democracy movement.

The country’s absolute monarch, King Hamad bin Isa, dominates all power centers. He appoints all senior judges, members of the upper house of Parliament, and members of the cabinet, which is headed by the world’s longest-serving prime minister, Khalifa bin Salman (first appointed when Nixon was president). In addition, the King has given himself the right to grant public lands and citizenship to whomever he wants. He has abused these powers in a wide and systematic manner by concentrating wealth among his family and allies including within Bahrain’s minority Sunni population.

On October 12, 2011, half a year after the Bahraini uprising, opposition parties representing well over half of the country’s population issued a blueprint for democratic reform in Bahrain, the Manama Document. This paper identified a path toward an orderly transition to a constitutional monarchy, ensuring an inclusive government that represents all Bahrainis in the cabinet, parliament, and security and judicial institutions. Specifically, it called for the establishment of representative electoral districts; free elections; a single elected chamber in Parliament instead of the current bi-cameral arrangement, where the upper house is appointed by the king and only the lower house is elected; an independent judiciary; and the inclusion of Shia among all ranks of the military and security forces.

Instead of embracing any of these ideas, the unaccountable king has offered up pretend reforms, and the US government, with an eye to keeping the Fifth Fleet’s headquarters in Bahrain and now on keeping Bahraini F-16s in the air over Iraq and Syria, pretends that these reforms are real. Central to this pretense is the “national dialogue” that has been running in fits and starts since July 2011. In reality, it has been a one-sided conversation, since key leaders of the opposition have been systematically arrested.

Last month, the king tapped Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad to assume his first real political role in the government—namely taking the lead in closing the door on the dialogue and submitting what he considered to be its “common ground.” Among other things, the crown prince proposed a meaningless plan for redistricting that was later imposed by the king by royal decree. Under this plan, Shia constituencies, which comprise about 65% of the total population, would receive only about 45% of the seats in Parliament. The redistricting plan was apparently designed to reduce the variation in the size of districts by scattering the opposition throughout majority loyalist districts. Moreover, the variation in the size of districts would remain huge. For example, a loyalist-majority district of less than 1,000 voters would elect one MP while an opposition-majority district with more than 10,000 voters would receive the same representation in Parliament—a ratio of more than ten to one. In fact, 13 opposition-majority districts with more than 10,000 voters each would be treated this way under the plan.

Another part of the supposed “common ground” relates to the formation of the cabinet, which must be approved by the majority of the elected chamber of Parliament. If Parliament fails to approve the appointed government three times, then Parliament would be dissolved.

Thousands of Bahrainis rejected this proposal Sept. 19 by marching in western Manama in a demonstration of determination on the part of pro-democracy forces that have not diminished despite the repression of the last three and a half years.

Nonetheless, based on the purported “common ground,” the government now intends to hold elections on Nov. 22.

Time is short for constructive engagement between the opposition and the regime to resolve these political disputes, and the US needs to be heard. Washington should not think that its interests require it to remain silent about the need for real democratic reform in Bahrain. In fact, failing to speak out is detrimental to its own stated interests in Iraq and Syria. While the regime in Bahrain is participating in F-16 sorties against the Islamic State, its policies of systematic discrimination against its majority Shia population and its ongoing incitement in the media against Bahraini Shia (as agents of Iran and the US at the same time!) create a perfect environment for incubating terrorists who consider Americans and Shia their greatest enemy. Moreover, while the US government trains Bahraini “security forces” that exclude Shia (on sectarian grounds), it appears that some Bahrainis working for these same forces have left to fight with the Islamic State.

Yet when Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights activist, recently tweeted that the security institutions were the ideological incubator of sectarianism and anti-American attitudes in Bahrain, he was arrested on the grounds that he had “denigrated government institutions.”

Bahrain is a small country, but it represents a major test for US credibility. The Obama administration has traded Bahraini democracy away once before. Three years of bloodshed in Bahrain has not only radicalized elements of the opposition there but has also instilled a culture of abuse and impunity in Bahrain’s government and security forces, some of whom are now looking to the Islamic State to satiate their new-found appetite for violence. Any potential benefit the US thinks it might gain from an unaccountable (Sunni) autocrat’s F16s in the bombing campaign against the Islamic State is more than offset by the sectarian extremism that these alleged allies continue to provoke (and promote) at home.

Washington should not sell out democracy in Bahrain again. With a little attention and encouragement, President Obama could help bring democracy to this Arab country and claim at least one good result for his (currently empty) “win” category.

Matar Ebrahim Matar is a former Member of Parliament who served as Bahrain’s youngest MP representing its largest constituency. In February 2011, along with 18 other members from his Al-Wefaq political party, he resigned from Parliament to protest the regime’s crackdown against pro-reform demonstrators. During the Feb. 14 uprising, he served as a major spokesman for the pro-democracy movement. Matar was subsequently arbitrarily detained, and, after his release, left Bahrain for exile in the United States. In 2012, he received the “Leaders for Democracy Award” from the Project on Middle Democracy (POMED).

Bahrain government, allies of NATO and ISIS


This is a video of United States comedian Jon Stewart about the participation of the Bahraini absolute monarchy in the supposedly anti-ISIS military coalition.

Since the 1970s, Bahrain and the U.S. have maintained a close military partnership. Following 9/11, the Bush Administration elevated Bahrain to “major non-NATO ally” status, making it the first GCC state to join this elite 15-member club: here.

From Global Voices:

Bahrain Joins US Air Strikes, but Still Tortures Americans and Silences ISIS Critics

9 October 2014 16:42 GMT

“He was ordered to stand on one leg for four hours. He says he was beaten repeatedly, as threats were made to rape his mother and sisters.” This sounds like the actions of ISIS, the Al Qaeda offshoot that has brutally taken control of large parts of Iraq and Syria. But it is actually a description of what the Bahrain government, an ally in the coalition against the ISIS, has done to an American citizen and thousands of its own citizens.

Bahrain and four other Arab countries have joined the coalition against the militant group, which is killing Muslims and minorities and spreading horror, in order to grab land for its self-declared caliphate. It goes without saying that Bahrain didn’t even pretend to hold a parliamentary session to approve the decision to go to war. Bahrain’s contribution to the coalition has also drawn laughs on American comedian Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” [see video at top of this blog post].

This comes shortly after Bahrain deported an American diplomat. Also recently, Shaikh Khalid Al Khalifa, the head of the national committee for defence and national security at the Shura Council, brushed off the danger of the ISIS.

Allegations of torture

Bahrain is now in the third year of its crackdown on a popular uprising. Tagi Al-Maidan, a US-born citizen, found himself caught in the struggle after he returned with his mother to Bahrain following her divorce. There, he was arrested and tortured into signing a false confession that he is an attempted murderer. He is now serving a 10-year sentence in Bahrain’s infamous prison system.

Al-Maidan was arrested at his house and put on trial for charges that included illegal gathering and assaulting armed forces. In an interview with an Arabic-language daily, his mother denied all the accusations, saying her son was home at the time of the alleged incident, adhering to the American embassy’s travel advisory.

The mother says there is no physical evidence to support the claims against her son. She demands that any supposedly incriminating evidence must be presented in open court, where, she is confident, it would be quickly refuted. According to Human Rights Watch, courts in Bahrain “fail to deliver basic accountability and impartial justice“.

According to prominent Bahraini human rights activist Said Yousif Almuhafada, Al-Maidan is being mistreated in prison. Almuhafada described the bad conditions in a tweet earlier this summer:

Tagi Al-Maidan, a US citizen, is on a hunger strike in block 3 [of Jaw Prison] due to his mistreatment, lack of medical attention, and deprivation of food that is necessary for his medical condition.

After several prisoner deaths in Bahrain last year, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said in its 2013 report:

The continuation of the current violations against all prisoners in Bahrain may lead to future loss of lives.

Four deaths were attributed to the lack of medical treatment in prison in 2013.

According to his mother, Al-Maidan has lost 16 kilos (about 35 pounds) since his arrest, his hair is falling out, he’s developed a stomach ulcer, and he is experiencing back pains. Without medical attention or enough diplomatic pressure to release him, Taqi’s psychological condition is also expected to deteriorate.

The arrest of Nabeel Rajab

Bahrain is also silencing those who speak against the ISIS, while turning a blind eye to defectors from its own armed forces, who have climbed the ranks of ISIS and call on Bahrainis to join the organisation.

Bahraini authorities have again arrested Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights activist who was released from prison in May 2014 after spending two years in prison for advocating peaceful protests. This time, he was held for criticizing police defectors who joined ISIS. Indeed, Rajab has commented on acts committed by ISIS many times. After American journalist Steven Sotloff was beheaded by ISIS, he wrote on his Instagram account:

The American journalist Steven Sotloff who was killed by ISIS is one of the journalists and researchers who visited Bahrain many times and wrote many articles and investigations that support the struggle of Bahrainis and I have met him several times. The cruelty that radical Islamist movements have inflicted on Islam and Muslims is more than the enemies of Islam [have dispensed]. I offer all my condolences to the family of this journalist, who was killed at the hands of the enemies of humanity.

Rajab also criticized the inaction of the political forces in the Gulf region to crack down on ISIS. He tweeted to his 240,000 followers:

The highest Saudi cleric describes ISIS and Al Qaeda as the greatest danger facing Islam, but there are politicians in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf who consider ISIS’s occupation of Mosul a popular revolution.

He was arrested after he tweeted in reply to an ISIS YouTube message calling Bahrainis to arms:

many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator

12:55 PM – 28 Sep 2014

The authorities in Bahrain considered this message offensive to national institutions, and decided to keep him in custody, until he is brought to trial on October 19 for “denigrating an official institution”. This has sparked a discussion about the government’s hypocrisy in its fight against ISIS. Ex-MP Ali Alasheeri tweeted:

The state authorities, who don’t raise a finger when a high-ranking official tweets about how over half of Bahrain is made up of infidels, is an incubator of the ISIS ideology.

Journalist Adel Marzooq asked his 35,900 followers:

Aside from the financial and military support, how can the international alliance, in the first place, deal with the cultural and theological support of ISIS?!

Bahraini authorities demolished about 40 Shia mosques across the country as part of its crackdown on protests against the Sunni regime. ISIS is doing the same to historic mosques, shrines, and places of worship throughout Syria and Iraq. Activist Abdulelah Almahoozi made a comparison between two acts, asking if we aren’t witnessing the same phenomenon in essence:

Isn’t the act of demolishing mosques, as the police and military forces have done, the same act that ISIS is performing? Therefore, aren’t the security institutions inspired by an ISIS-like ideology?

Meanwhile, the Bahrain-born-and-raised preacher Turki Al Binali, who pledged allegiance to ISIS, has issued a new statement on why allegiance to the Caliphate Abu-Baker Albaghdaddi is the duty of every Muslim.

The Bahrain Ministry of Interior, which customarily publishes pictures of political dissidents and their charges before they go to court, hasn’t posted anything yet about the identity of the three unnamed Bahraini men in the YouTube message calling on Bahrainis to join ISIS. The government hasn’t announced a public investigation into the matter, either.

Update: Bahrain – Court orders continued detention of Mr Nabeel Rajab as he awaits trial: here.