February 3, 2016 - 10:49 AMT
Armenia decides against extraditing Bahraini activist

The Armenian government has refused to extradite a Bahraini activist who was arrested in Armenia last month after fleeing Bahrain to avoid imprisonment on what human rights groups consider politically motivated charges, RFE/RL Armenian Service reports.

The whereabouts of Fadhel Radhi have been unknown since his release from an Armenian jail on Sunday, January 31, however. One of his Armenian lawyers suggested on Tuesday that the 25-year-old was deported to neighboring Iran.

Armenian authorities detained Fadhel Radhi, a 25-year-old Bahrani, upon his arrival at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport on January 1, 2016. The activist planned to proceed to Germany and ask for political asylum there.

Radhi was arrested by the Bahraini police and charged with involvement in “mass disturbances,” arson and “terrorism” in 2013, two years after the Gulf state’s ruling Sunni dynasty quelled a Shia uprising hailed by Iran. He reportedly fled the country shortly before being sentenced to seven years in prison in 2014.

An Armenian court promptly placed Radhi under a 30-day arrest pending a decision on his extradition to be made by Justice Minister Arpine Hovannisyan. The latter is legally empowered to reject extradition requests submitted by foreign states.

Bahraini authorities issued a red warning to the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPC) demanding that Fadhel Radhi be extradited back to Bahrain over accusations of attempted murder, illegal circulation of explosives, damage to public and private property, mass disorder and terrorism.

A statement issued by the Finnish Helsinki Citizen Organization expressed “deep concern” over Armenia’s determination to hand Radhi over, fearing he will be exposed to “torture and ill-treatment” in the event of his extradition to Bahrain.

A number of human rights groups have appealed to the Armenian authorities to validate that the charges against Fadhel Radhi in Bahrain are in line with international human rights laws before handing him over.

“The Bahraini authorities have repeatedly pursued human rights, civil, and political activists internationally, using international agreements to assist it in this regard. We sincerely hope you do not to comply with the requests by Bahrain to extradite Radhi, without making sure there is a clear criminal case against him that came about through an impartial and independent judiciary that possesses capabilities to administer fair trials,” the organizations urged.

Armenian human rights campaigners added their voice to these concerns. Some of them helped Radhi hire two local lawyers for his extradition battle.

The spokeswoman for the Armenian Justice Ministry, Lusine Martirosyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Tuesday that Hovannisyan has rejected an extradition request received from the Bahraini authorities “through non-diplomatic channels.” She said the justice minister found “a number of flaws” in that petition and also took into account the fact that Armenia and Bahrain are not bound by extradition treaties.

Martirosyan added that Radhi was set free in time for the expiry of his 30-day arrest. She could not say anything about his current whereabouts.

One of Radhi’s Armenian lawyers, Tigran Safaryan, revealed, meanwhile, that neither he nor the other attorney have seen their client since his release late on Sunday. Safaryan said Radhi walked free and was driven away by a civilian car in an unknown direction shortly before he was due to be greeted by his lawyers outside a Yerevan jail. They had agreed that they will take Radhi to a hotel where he would live until the Armenian authorities decide on political asylum requested by the Bahraini national, said the lawyer.

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Safaryan said that according to his “preliminary information” received from government sources, Radhi was “unofficially” - and apparently willingly -- deported to Iran.

Iran, which has a cordial rapport with Armenia, had condemned the suppression of the 2011 Shia revolt in Bahrain. Relations between the two Muslim countries have been very strained since then.

Bahrain was among several Arab states that severed diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic last month out of solidarity with Saudi Arabia.