'Freedom of expression' doesn’t condone acts of terror

The Minister of State for Information Sameera Rajab addressing a Press conference at Prime Minister’s Court on Saturday
The Minister of State for Information Sameera Rajab, told a press conference on Saturday that destruction, violence and attempts to choke the national economy can’t be described as ‘freedom of expression.’

Held at the Prime Minister’s Court, the Press conference focussed on the verdict of Nabeel Rajab and Friday’s terrorist attack on Police patrol and peaceful citizens in downtown Muharraq, which left a teenager protestor dead.

The Minister said that the press conference marks a new and important move towards greater communication and cooperation between ministries and governmental institutions, and both domestic and international media. The Minister gave details regarding the recent verdict in the trial of Nabeel Rajab, and spoke about freedom of expression, drawing a distinction between the legitimate exercise of that right and acts of violence, vandalism, and destruction. She also answered questions from journalists in attendance.

The Minister stressed that Rajab, like everybody, was guaranteed his rights to due process and the right to a free and fair trial. His lawyer attended all hearings to defend him and had access to and regular communication with Rajab to form their arguments and prepare for his defense. They were given ample time and opportunity during the trial to present all relevant aspects of their defense. She added that right of appeal is available and guaranteed.

Rajab was sentenced to three years in prison in three different cases on Thursday (16 August 2012) for participating in and inciting illegal assemblies and organizing through social media websites unlicensed demonstrations at busy commercial areas in the capital, Manama. The Minister pointed to three separate and specific incidents that took place earlier this year on January 12th, February 14th, and March 31st. These specific incidents are reported to have caused riots, road blocks, fires, and destruction of public and private property,

These acts of incitement and direct participation have compromised public order and the safety of citizens through the use of petrol bombs, along with other improvised weapons, against public and private property; as well as assault against police officers, leaving a number of them injured. “These acts have also had a direct negative impact on economic and commercial activity in those areas of the capital which have prompted proprietors and businesses owners to request intervention from the Ministry of Interior to protect their interests and immediate safety,”” she said.

She affirmed that all these events are documented and are corroborated by video and photographic evidence some of which was shared at the press conference.

The Minister also spoke about a terrorist attack by a group of youths on a stationary police patrol on Friday night at 21:30. The attack took place on a busy street at the center of the city of Muharraq. A large number of petrol bombs were thrown at the police patrol and its officers, endangering their lives and those of people in that vicinity.

She acknowledged that the incident is the latest in a string of attacks on security personnel with the express intention of severely injuring or killing members of the police force and stated that the police officers have acted within the rules, regulations, and the legal authority granted to them in such circumstances. She noted that a 16 year old, Hussam Al-Haddad, has been identified as being involved in the terror act, at which time he was injured. He died after being transported to the hospital. A case has been opened by the Public Prosecution to identify the details of the incident.

The Minister reiterated the government’s commitment to the rule of law and that no one is exempt from accountability.

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