US: Call for the Immediate Release of Bahrain's "Freedom Poet"
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We the signatories of this petition call upon the United States' highest-ranking diplomat in Bahrain, Chargé d’Affaires Stephanie Williams, to make a public statement calling for the immediate release of 20 year-old poet Ayat al-Gormezi who had a one-year prison sentence unjustly imposed on her 12 June 2011 for reading a poem.
Bahrain’s National Safety Court of First Instance claimed in sentencing Ayat that she was guilty of “inciting hatred of the regime and of being involved in a rally to commit crimes.” Masked police arrested Ayat at her home on 30 March for reciting a poem critical of the monarchy during a pro-democracy rally in the capital Manama in February.
Media reports indicate that since being in custody Ayat, a student teacher, has been beaten across the face with an electric cable, spent nine days in a tiny cell with the air conditioning turned to freezing, and was forced to clean with her bare hands toilets just used by police. Almost certainly as a result of this brutal treatment, Ayat on 21 June 2011 made a televised apology to the Bahraini king and prime minster for what she had said and done.
No crime deserves such debasing and inhumane treatment -- and certainly not the "crime" of reciting a poem, no matter how critical it is of the ruling government or its leader. The United States must stand firmly on the side of free speech and the just treatment of detainees in this matter. There is also serious concern that Ayat may face additional charges and be returned to the prison where her abusive interrogation took place. In light of these grave developments, we call on Chargé d’Affaires Stephanie Williams and the US government to make a public statement demanding that the Bahaini government comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the norms of international law and provide al-Gormezi with a speedy release from her unlawful incarceration.
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