Just one day after announcing their presence in Bahrain as human rights observers, National Lawyers Guild (NLG) members Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath were arrested at a protest in the capital city Manama and deported back to the United States. Their mission came amid renewed street protests on the one year anniversary of the country's Arab Spring uprising. Their ordeal illustrates the U.S.-backed monarchy's harsh response to its people's continued calls for democracy.
Ms. Sainath, who works as a civil rights attorney in New York, said, "Given the Bahraini regime's treatment of American lawyers one can only imagine the torture and human rights abuses Bahraini democracy activists routinely face - and why the regime is trying to hide it."
Bahraini police arrested Ms. Sainath and Ms. Arraf February 11 near the Pearl Roundabout, the site of last year's Manama protests which were modeled after the revolutionary gatherings in Egypt's Tahrir Square. Authorities confiscated the pair's phones and camera equipment, and deported them the following morning, forcing them to endure the seven-hour flight to London with their hands cuffed behind their backs. During the flight, security officers hit Ms. Sainath on the head three times and told her that if she wanted to go the bathroom she "could go to the bathroom on herself."
"The treatment our members suffered solely for documenting human rights abuse is contemptible and it demands further investigation," said NLG Executive Director Heidi Boghosian. "Further, we call on the U.S. government to take immediate steps to protect the rights of all Bahrainis by suspending all arms sales to the Bahraini government."
The two women traveled to the country as part of the Witness Bahrain initiative, heeding a call by Bahraini democracy activists for international observers. Six more Witness Bahrain activists now face deportation after their arrests earlier today.
Now in its 75th year, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.
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