Bahrain arrests pro-Qatar lawyer, sympathizer

Bahrain has arrested a citizen who expressed sympathy for Qatar over sanctions imposed on the country by its Arab neighbors while a lawyer, who challenged the blockade, was also sent behind bars.

The attorney general Ahmed al-Hammadi said Wednesday that the public prosecutor’s office received a case from the department of cyber crime in which “a person of interest had posted comments to social networks that constitute a violation” of a ban against sympathizing with boycott-hit Qatar.

“The prosecution has begun investigating the matter, and the suspect has been interrogated and is being held in custody,” Hammadi, head of Bahrain’s Terrorist Crimes Commission, said.

On June 5, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt followed Saudi Arabia in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing the country of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region. They also halted sea, air and land traffic with Qatar, effectively imposing a blockade on the tiny kingdom.

The Bahraini regime announced on June 8 that it will follow the United Arab Emirates’ suit in jailing anyone expressing sympathy for Qatar.

“Any expression of sympathy with the government of Qatar or opposition to the measures taken by the government of Bahrain, whether through social media, Twitter or any other form of communication, is a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine,” a statement of the Bahraini Interior Ministry said.

Meanwhile, the Bahraini authorities arrested a prominent human rights lawyer after he launched a lawsuit against the Cabinet, Interior Ministry and Foreign Ministry at the Supreme Administrative Court in Manama over the sanctions imposed on Doha

Issa Faraj Arhama al-Burshaid described as “arbitrary” Manama’s sanctions, which include banning Qataris from staying in the country along with other economic penalties.

“This siege has broken up family ties and hurt all Bahraini families,” Burshaid said.

The Bahraini lawyer stressed that “The decision to cut diplomatic relations violates Bahrain’s constitution and laws.”

He said the measures violate Bahrain’s constitution, which prohibits imposing any bans on Qataris and indicates the country must maintain economic unity among Persian Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC) member states.

Bahrain’s director-general of the Anti-Corruption and Financial and Electronic Security agency said Burshaid was detained for posting materials on social media that “damage the social fiber and national unity”.

The director-general said the necessary legal measures are being finalized to bring Burshaid’s case to prosecutors.