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France

Bahrein policewoman acquitted of torturing France 24 reporter

media France 24 correspondant Nazeeha Saeed

A Bahreini court has cleared a female police officer accused of torturing a reporter for RFI’s sister stations France 24 and Monte Carlo Doualiya during protests last year. Press freedom campaigners are “outraged” by the verdict.

Lieutenant Sarah al-Musa was the first female officer to face charges before a civilian court for abuses during the police crackdown on protests that started in February.

The demonstrations, largely supported by Bahrein’s Shia-Muslim majority, demanded reform from the Sunni-Muslim royal family and were repressed with help from Saudi Arabia, which accused Iran of fomenting them.

Al-Musa’s trial for allegedly torturing and ill-treating Nazeeha Saeed started on 6 June and the verdict was passed on Monday.

Saeed said she was summoned to a police station in the city of Rifa’a for questioning on 22 May 2011 and accused of lying in her reports and having links to the Lebanese Shia Hezbullah TV station al-Manar and the Iranian Arabic station Al-Alam.

“During my detention last year, which lasted 13 hours, the policewomen beat me on the face, back, shoulders and legs to such a point that, when my detention was over, I was unable to walk,” Saeed told RFI.

She was also blindfolded and told to bray like a donkey and ordered to drink from a bottle that the police claimed contained urine, according to Reporters Without Borders.

"Reporters Without Borders is outraged at the officer’s acquittal, a verdict that illustrates the Bahrain’s judicial system’s lack of independence," the press freedom campaign commented Monday.

Last year Saeed was witness in the trial of two other police officers, accused of killing two demonstrators.

“I saw one of them kill a demonstrator with my own eyes and I gave evidence,” she stold RFI. “That man was let off. From that point on I knew I would not get justice.”

Saeed, who is appealing against the verdict, also filed a complaint against another female officer and a male one, Fahad Ali Abdulla Khalifa, on the same charges but no action has been taken against them.

In Egypt on Saturday France 24 reporter Sonia Dridi filed a complaint after being manhandled by a crowd of men while reporting on a demonstration at Cairo's Tahrir Square.

“The crowd encircled us … It was mostly young men, but not only. They started to touch me and I held onto my colleague, who tried to reassure me and hold my attention so we could get out of the crowd as fast as possible,” Dridi said.

The French Foreign Ministry has demanded that the Egyptian authorities “do everything possible to expedite an investigation, indentify the perpetrators and ensure that they face justice”.

 

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