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Bahrain charges then releases four American journalists

Group accused of rioting in Bahrain while covering the fifth anniversary of an uprising in the Gulf state
Anna Day is one of four American journalists arrested and charged by Bahraini authorities (RWB)

Bahraini authorities on Tuesday charged four American journalists arrested while covering the fifth anniversary of the country’s 2011 uprising.

The journalists were charged with “unlawful obstruction of vehicles and attending unlawful gatherings,” according to the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA).

They have been released “pending further investigations”. 

A Bahrain rights activist reported that the four journalists will be allowed to leave Bahrain.

BNA reported that Bahrain’s public prosecution “received a complaint from the director general of the Capital Governorate police force on Monday 15 February regarding acts of vandalism and rioting in the Sitra area of Bahrain”.

The four Americans were arrested “as a result of their involvement in the criminal acts,” according to BNA.

Only one of the journalists has so far been identified. She is freelancer Anna Therese Day, who has previously contributed to US publications The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast.

The BNA said one of the journalists arrested had covered their face and were joining in with “rioting” in Sitra.

A London-based Bahrain rights activist condemned the charges as “absurd”.

“The harassment of these journalists is utterly absurd and outrageous,” Sayed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Development (BIRD), told Middle East Eye in an emailed statement.

“It reflects how the government has shut down the country and freely commits rights abuses.”

BIRD reported that at least six Bahraini journalists are also imprisoned in Bahrain, including the award-winning photojournalist Ahmed al-Fardan, who was sentenced to three months in prison in January.

Another award-winning photojournalist, Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi, was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment and had his citizenship removed in November 2015. Mousawi was convicted on terrorism charges.

Home to the US Fifth Fleet, Bahrain has been rocked by an Arab Spring-inspired uprising demanding reforms and a constitutional monarchy which began on 14 February, 2011.

Authorities crushed the protest movement one month later with the backing of a Saudi-led intervention. But demonstrators still take to streets and clash with police in towns across the tiny island.

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