Bahraini blogger escapes from dictatorship


A woman holds a photo of freed Bahraini blogger Ali Abdulemam (photo AP)

From The Atlantic in the USA:

Escape From Bahrain: Ali Abdulemam Is Free

The exclusive inside story of a dissident blogger’s getaway from the repressive island kingdom, how events overcame rescue plans, and what’s next for him

May 10 2013, 8:39 AM ET

After more than two years in hiding, Ali Abdulemam, the globally renowned blogger and free-speech advocate, has been freed from the Kingdom of Bahrain. Abdulemam is now safely in Europe, after a dramatic escape in a secret compartment of a car, and will make his first public appearance in more than two years on Wednesday at the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF).

In 1999, Abdulemam created the pro-democracy news website Bahrain Online, the island’s first free Internet forum for political and social debate, becoming a pivotal architect of his country’s political blogosphere. Because of this, and his related efforts to promote human rights in his country, Abdulemam was detained numerous times by the Bahraini authorities — eventually imprisoned in September 2010 along with 25 other human-rights activists for “spreading false information” and defaming the king — and subjected to interrogation, beatings, and torture. Despite being blocked by regime censors, Bahrain Online still regularly gets more than 100,000 hits a day.

In February of 2011 Abdulemam accepted an invitation from the Human Rights Foundation (HRF, OFF’s parent organization) to give a talk on dissent in Bahrain. Two weeks later, amid massive anti-government protests, he sent a cryptic tweet and abruptly disappeared. Three days after that, police ransacked his house. In June of 2011, Abdulemam was tried in absentia by a military court and sentenced to 15 years in prison for “plotting” an anti-government “coup.”

In 2012, with Abdulemam’s whereabouts still unknown, his wife was invited to the Oslo Freedom Forum but was unable to attend because of family commitments. This year, in close cooperation with another organization, HRF took a much more aggressive approach: planning Abdulemam’s escape from Bahrain.

Missing Bahraini blogger surfaces in London. Opposition activist Ali Abdulemam, sentenced to 15 years in absentia, has reemerged after two years in hiding: here. See also here. And here.

Interview: Ali Abdulemam on Human Rights in Bahrain: here.

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17 thoughts on “Bahraini blogger escapes from dictatorship

  1. AFP | Dubai May 11, 2013 Last Updated at 00:00 IST

    Thousands in Bahrain protest against ‘torture’: reports

    Thousands of partisans of Bahrain’s opposition demonstrated near Manama today to protest against the alleged torture of jailed regime opponents, witnesses said.

    Gathered around the Shiite village of Daih, men and women waved Bahrain’s national flag and held up signs that read: “Manama, capital of torture,” the witnesses said.

    “Torture is a practice rooted in the security agencies,” in Bahrain, the main Shiite opposition bloc Al-Wefaq said in a statement.

    It charged that a tug-of-war is underway in Sunni-ruled Bahrain between “a political majority demanding a democratic transition and a hard core dictatorship that refuses any change.”

    Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, was rocked by month-long protests in early 2011 linked to opposition demands for a constitutional monarchy.

    The protests were crushed with the help of Gulf troops led by neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

    Strategically situated across the Gulf from Shiite-ruled Iran, Bahrain, which has a majority Shiite community, has continued to witness sporadic demonstrations, now mostly outside the capital.

    Human rights groups say a total of 80 people have been killed in the unrest in Bahrain since February 2011.

  2. Navy to permanently move 5 coastal patrol ships to Bahrain

    By Associated Press, Updated: Friday, May 10, 9:07 PM

    NORFOLK, Va. — The Navy will permanently move five Virginia Beach-based ships, a maintenance crew and the squadron’s command staff to Bahrain beginning next week, officials said Friday.

    The movement of patrol coastal ships is being made to meet mission requirements set by the U.S. Fifth Fleet and Central Command, said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura, a U.S. Fleet Forces Command spokesman.

    The speedy ships can operate in shallow water and perform interdiction surveillance. Each is armed with automatic grenade launchers and a variety of machine guns.

    The U.S. possesses 13 of the ships and five of them are already based in Bahrain, home of the Fifth Fleet. The Navy had been manning those ships with different crews that rotated in every six months. But those ships will also be assigned crews that will be based in Bahrain year-round, allowing sailors to move their families there.

    “The shift alleviates the significant strain placed on the crews and their families while ensuring capacity and capability,” the Navy said in a statement announcing the move.

    The USS Tempest, USS Squall and USS Thunderbolt will leave Virginia Beach on Tuesday and arrive in Manama, Bahrain this summer.

    Two other ships are expected to transfer by the spring of 2014. The Navy says three patrol coastal ships will remain stationed in Virginia Beach.

    Each ship has a crew of four officers and 24 enlisted personnel. Another 122 personnel attached to a maintenance support team and the staff of Patrol Coastal Squadron One will also relocate to Bahrain.

    Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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