2 American women arrested during protest in Bahrain

Story highlights

  • Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath are arrested in Manama, state news reports
  • Arraf's husband denied official reports that the two have been deported
  • They are charged with illegal gathering and lying about why they were there, he says
  • Sainath wrote Bahrain would "behave differently if Americans and Europeans were watching"
Two American women were arrested during a demonstration Saturday in the capital of Bahrain, with state news and one of the women's husbands offering divergent accounts as to whether they were then deported.
Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath arrived in Bahrain several days ago and obtained tourist visas, reported the state-run Bahrain News Agency .
They were arrested Saturday afternoon by authorities in Manama, the news agency and the advocacy group Witness Bahrain both said.
Adam Shapiro, Arraf's husband, told CNN late Saturday from Ireland that the two have been charged with being at an illegal gathering -- because the protest they were at was not considered legal -- as well as giving false reasons for entering the county. He based his account on talks with U.S. embassy officials, though he hadn't talked with his wife directly.
He denied that the women had been deported back to the United States, as the Bahrain News Agency reported.
Rather, Shapiro said the women spent part of what was early Sunday morning at a Bahraini court hearing attended by a prosecutor, their lawyers, a judge and two U.S. embassy officials.
U.S. State Department spokesman Harry Edwards confirmed the American embassy was aware and engaged in the case, noting that consular officials had visited the pair.
Arraf gave a statement to police in English that was written down in Arabic, her husband said. She refused to sign the statement because it was not translated back to English, according to Shapiro.
Neither woman appeared to have suffered any sort of injuries, U.S. embassy officials told Shapiro.
The advocacy group Witness Bahrain said both Arraf and Sainath are human rights lawyers. They were in the Middle Eastern country as part of an effort to have more civilians from different nations on the ground to monitor the situation.
Sainath wrote a piece Friday for Witness Bahrain, saying, "Surely, the government would behave differently if Americans and Europeans were watching."
"Our team came together: attorneys, human rights activists, social workers, journalists and others who had experience with nonviolent resistance and democracy movements in Mexico, Palestine, Pakistan and the United States," she said.
The Bahrain protests began February 14, 2011 -- following popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. But they failed to gain the traction of other Arab Spring uprisings following a crackdown that first month and then again in mid-March by Bahraini authorities -- backed by troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Demonstrators and Bahraini authorities have continued to clash, with the opposition accusing the government of being heavy handed in its crackdown on protests.