To US citizens have been arrested by Bahraini security forces after taking part in Saturday’s protests, according to reports out of Bahrain.
US citizens Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath were arrested in Manama on Saturday during a peaceful protest in near the Standard Chartered Bank downtown, according to Witness Bahrain.
Protesters had marched into the city center to reestablish a presence of nonviolent, peaceful protest leading up to the 1-year anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising in Bahrain.
Huwaida and Radhika were in Bahrain as part of an international solidarity effort aimed at providing an international civilian presence to report and monitor the situation on the ground, according to Witness Bahrain.
Leading up to February 14, Bahraini authorities had prevented journalists, human rights observers and other internationals from entering the country, leading many to fear a brutal crackdown. The two women are part of the Witness Bahrain initiative, which arrived in Bahrain in response to a call by Bahraini democracy activists for international observers.
According to Witness Bahrain, after being arrested the two women were told close to midnight Saturday that they would have a hearing at the public prosecutor’s office in thirty minutes to determine whether they would be deported. At the scheduled hearing time, their lawyer, Mohammed al Jishi, arrived to find the prosecutor there but the activists had not yet been brought from the police station.
Witness Bahrain noted that rumors have been flying in the blogosphere and major media that “they have been deported, but to our knowledge, all such rumors are false at this time, and no final decision has been reached. Please stay tuned for updates and action alerts.”
On Friday, top US human rights envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, called on the Bahraini authorities to respect the rights of Bahrainis to peaceful protest and to refrain from using excessive force.
According to Witness Bahrain, Huwaida was dragged away by numerous security forces after sitting on the ground, and it is widely reported that detainees have suffered physical abuse while on the way to and at police stations.
Witness Bahrain insisted that both women were part of a peaceful protest marching near the Pearl Roundabout – site of last year’s peaceful round-the-clock protest in Bahrain, modeled after Egypt’s Tahrir Square – when they were attacked.
Both are human rights lawyers, and both have experience as human rights activists in Palestine, Witness Bahrain said, adding that they were both were part of the National Lawyer’s Guild delegation to Gaza following Operation Cast Lead to investigate possible war crimes and illegal use of American weaponry on a civilian population.