The following is a statement from the Bahraini government on escaped Bahraini activist Ali Abdulemam, as obtained by CNN.
Ali Abdulemam was not tried in court for exercising his right to express his opinions. Rather, he was tried for inciting and encouraging continuous violent attacks against police officers. Abdulemam is the founder of Bahrain Online, a website that has repeatedly been used to incite hatred, including through the spreading of false and inflammatory rumors.
Bahrain Online openly and routinely glorifies indiscriminate acts of violence particularly against the police. Their material is mostly in Arabic, clearly aimed at a local audience rather than international journalists and human rights organizations. Bahrain Online is the preferred media platform for the 14 February Youth Coalition, a group that espouses violence and which has claimed responsibility for a car bomb that exploded at the Financial Harbor – the heart of Bahrain’s business district – on 14 April 2013.
On 28 April 2013, Bahrain Online transmitted on its Facebook page a religious fatwa (or edict) issued by radical clerics endorsing the use of violence as a religious obligation. On 8 May 2013, Bahrain Online tweeted comments by a hardline group calling the United States the ‘Great Satan’. Perusing the Bahrain Online website throws up many such egregious examples.
It is surprising that certain NGOs have taken it as their mission to aid and abet fugitives from justice, including by engaging in questionable and possibly illegal actions.
The government of Bahrain respects the right of its citizens to express their opinion; this right is enshrined in Bahrain’s constitution, which the government is committed to upholding. This is exactly the focus of the National Dialogue – the airing of opinions. Abdulemam has consistently exhorted his followers to reject any dialogue with the government. However, free speech does not equate to engaging in, or actively encouraging, violence: the government does not tolerate the use of violence as an intimidation tactic to impose any political or ideological goals upon society.