IFEX urges Bahrain to free member Nabeel Rajab prior to appeal
(IFEX) - 12 October 2012 - IFEX, the world's largest network of free expression organisations, repeats its urgent appeal to the authorities to overturn the three-year prison sentence handed down on 16 August 2012 to Nabeel Rajab, president of its member Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), for his role in pro-democracy protests. Nabeel is due in appeals court on 16 October. "We are alarmed that Nabeel still remains in prison for peacefully expressing his right to free expression," says Annie Game, IFEX executive director. "We had hope that international appeals had been heard when authorities showed clemency and released Nabeel to mourn his mother's death last week. But this hope was dashed when after one day they locked him back in prison.”
Nabeel Rajab went on hunger strike on 5 October after the authorities refused to allow him to attend the full mourning period following his mother's death on 4 October. At the request of his family he ended the strike on 8 October as his health declined.
On 16 August, IFEX joined Rajab's family and human rights groups, such as BCHR, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Index on Censorship, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Human Rights First, Front Line Defenders, International Media Support, Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights, in calling for the immediate release of Rajab. With little notice, the judge ruled in three cases related to Rajab's participation in peaceful protests, and handed down a one-year jail sentence in each.
IFEX echoed the family's concerns for his health and welfare, when he reported the poor conditions in which he was kept. "Although we welcome news of improved conditions, we would rather see him released to be with his family, particularly during this difficult time," says Game.
Along with dozens of other human rights groups, IFEX lobbied the Bahrain government to implement recommendations from Bahrain's Universal Periodic Review, adopted at the United Nations in September, as well as the reforms promised after the 14 February 2011 crackdown. Over 100 NGOs joined an appeal in May to free human rights defenders, including Rajab in Bahrain.
IFEX is encouraged by the fact that the Higher Appeal Court previously acquitted Rajab on 23 August 2012 in a case brought against him for criticising the Prime Minister on twitter, which allegedly "insulted" Bahrainis. But it is disappointing that he was not released pending the appeal in the case, and he should be freed now. This is the time to show the world that Bahrain is serious about its international obligations, as the Minister of State for Human Rights of Bahrain promised at the UN last month.