A Bahraini poet faces possible imprisonment for reading out a poem criticizing the country’s King when a military court rules on her case next Sunday.
Ayat al-Qarmezi, 20, a poet and student was arrested in March for reading out a poem at a pro-reform rally in the capital Manama. She has been charged with "incitement to hatred of the regime" and has reportedly been tortured while in detention.
"Ayat al-Qarmezi has been put on trial merely for expressing her opinion, peacefully and openly. Her case represents an appalling and sinister attack on free speech. The charge/s against her should be dropped and she should be released immediately," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
"If convicted, Ayat al-Qarmezi could face a long prison sentence. If she is imprisoned, she will be the first woman prisoner of conscience to be locked up in Bahrain for peacefully expressing her views," he added.
While attending a pro-reform rally in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout in February, Ayat al-Qarmezi read out a poem which she said was addressed to King Hamad bin 'Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain's head of state.