Middle East

Bahrain acquits policewoman in journalist torture case'

Bahraini opposition rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja gestures from inside a police vehicle after she was arrested in Eker, Bahrain, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

DUBAI: A Bahrain court on Monday acquitted a policewoman who was charged with torturing a female journalist during last year's crackdown on anti-regime protests in the Gulf kingdom, the claimant said.

"The court has ruled that Sara al-Musa was not guilty in the case of torturing me," wrote Naziha Saeed, who is Manama's correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya, on her Twitter page.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the ruling and said in a statement that it "illustrates the Bahrain's judicial system's lack of independence."

The Paris-based organisation said Saeed intends to appeal the verdict.

Lieutenant Musa was accused of torturing Saeed while the journalist was in custody on May 22 last year.

The prosecution said in May it had referred the case to the "high criminal court because the defendant is a public servant in the ministry of interior and has used force against the victim to make her confess to a crime."

"She beat her and caused her the harm described in a medical report," a prosecution statement said.

The officer was charged with "attacking the body" of Saeed, by "slapping her, beating her with plastic tubing, kicking her in all parts of her body, in addition to insulting her," the statement said.

Saeed, who reported on last year's deadly crackdown on the Shiite-led pro-democracy protests, was summoned by police on May 22 last year, without any idea of what awaited her, said RSF.

Saeed said she was badly beaten and humiliated by several policewomen after she was accused of lying in her reports. She was released after midnight, and days later the interior ministry announced proceedings against those accused of mistreating her.

"The kingdom's authorities, mindful of their international image, pride themselves on having accepted 158 of the 176 recommendations -- 13 partially -- made by the Bahrain Universal Periodic Review at the 21st session of the UN Human Rights Council last month," RSF said.

"However, these undertakings were trampled underfoot as soon as the television cameras left."

An international probe commissioned by King Hamad accused police of using excessive force and torture in last year's crackdown, which was backed by troops from Bahrain's Gulf neighbours.

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, a total of 80 people have been killed in Bahrain since the violence began on February 14, 2011.





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