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The New Arab

Bahrain rights lawyer arrested over Qatar blockade lawsuit

Bahrain recently outlawed criticism of its sanctions on Qatar [AFP]

Date of publication: 14 June, 2017

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A prominent lawyer detained over social media posts after challenging Bahrain's sanctions against Qatar as unconstitutional.

A prominent human rights lawyer has been arrested in Bahrain after he launched a lawsuit against the country's government over its role in the Gulf-led blockade of Qatar.

Issa Faraj Arhama al-Burshaid was detained after filing a case with Manama's Supreme Administrative Court against the Bahraini cabinet, interior and foreign ministries.

"This siege has broken up family ties and hurt all Bahraini families," Burshaid said. "The decision to cut diplomatic relations violates Bahrain's constitution and laws."

He also described Manama's blockade - which includes the closing of airspace and the expulsion of Qatari national - as "arbitrary".

Burshaid's detention follows a declaration made by Bahrain on Thursday outlawing "sympathy or favouritism" to Qatar. Those found guilty of the crime could face up to five years in prison, as well as a fine.

The UAE has likewise threatened to jail critics of Qatar's diplomatic isolation for up to 15 years.

According to the director-general of Bahrain's anti-corruption and financial and electronic security agency, Burshaid was arrested over social media posts that threatened to "damage the social fibre and national unity".

Proceedings are underway to take Burshaid's case to prosecutors, he added. 

Burshaid argued that actions taken against Qatar violate Bahrain's constitution, which stipulates that at all times Manama must maintain economic unity with its fellow GCC members.

He also contended that the Saudi-led bloc's allegations that Qatar is "supporting terrorism" must be dealt with by the United Nations Security Council not individual countries.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that moves by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to punish Qatar were a serious concern and he was alarmed by its possible consequences.

"I am alarmed about the possible impact on many people's human rights in the wake of the decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain to cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar," al-Hussein said in a statement. 

"It is becoming clear that the measures being adopted are overly broad in scope and implementation."

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