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Award-winning photographer's nationality revoked in Bahrain, sparking NGO outcry

Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for being part of a 'terror cell'
A photo of Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi (BCHR)

Human rights bodies have criticised the stripping of the nationality of an award-winning Bahraini photographer, after he was accused by the kingdom of belonging to a “terror cell.”

Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi was on Monday sentenced to 10 years in prison and had his nationality revoked, along with 12 other Bahrainis, purportedly for covering a series of demonstrations in early 2014.

On Wednesday, a number of organisations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Index on Censorship, released a statement condemning the sentences as the “criminalisation of free speech and press".

Mousawi was arrested in February 2014 after a raid on his home by plainclothes police officers and was accused of passing a SIM card to anti-government protestors

He alleges that during interrogation he suffered torture at the hands of the security services, including beatings on his genitals, electrocution and hanging from a door.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, criticised the decision of the UK to increase aid to Bahrain while allegations of torture were mounting.

“Sayed al-Mousawi’s torture took place at a time when the UK has been increasing its spending on a ‘reform programme’ for Bahrain to bolster its institutions,” said Alwadaei.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that this programme has failed. Torture is still systematic and unrelenting and the government has broken all promises of reform.”

The UK's aid programme for reform in Bahrain increased from £1.5mn in 2014 to £2.1mn in 2015.

Since 2011, Bahrain has been rocked by pro-democracy protests which have been suppressed by the kingdom's security services.

Bahrain has revoked the citizenship of more than 130 people since 2012, a trend criticised by the CPJ.

"Yet again the Bahraini government has wielded citizenship as a weapon of censorship against journalists," said CPJ's Middle East and North Africa programme coordinator, Sherif Mansour.

"We call on the Bahraini judiciary to overturn this disturbing sentence, recognise al-Mousawi's citizenship, and free him immediately."

Bahrain was ranked 163 of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

Last year, a Bahraini court also convicted Ahmed al-Humaidan, another photojournalist, to 10 years in prison under similar charges to Mousawi.