Serious Concerns over the Continuous Unlawful Detention of Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is greatly concerned at the prolongued detention of its President and human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.
On 15 December the Bahrain High Criminal Court has postponed, for the fifth time, the trial of Nabeel Rajab, leading human rights defender, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, to 28 December. BCHR is deeply concerned about the ongoing detention and prosecution of Rajab, as well as his deteriorating health condition since his arrest.
Rajab has been denied release and was not allowed to speak in court.
The High Criminal Court had already postponed the trial of Rajab four times in a row since the commencement of the trial on 11 July 2016. On 31 October the High Criminal Court postponed the trial to hire an expert from the Cyber Crime Unit to verify that the Twitter handle in question was managed by him. The reopening of his case throws a light on the lack of evidence of any wrongdoing.
Rajab is being prosecuted in relation to tweets and retweets about torture in Jau Prison and the human rights violations in the war on Yemen. The prosecution of Rajab is based on Articles 133, 215, and 216 of Bahrain’s Penal Code over charges of “false or malicious news, statements, or rumours,” “offending a foreign country” (Saudi Arabia), and “offending a statutory body” – for which he may be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. All these charges relate to Rajab’s exercise of his free expression.
In September, Bahrain’s prosecution brought new charges against him for “undermining the prestige of the state” after the New York Times published his opinion piece, Letter from a Bahraini Jail. This charge could carry an additional year. In his letter, Rajab criticized his country for being one “that punishes its people for thinking, that prevents its citizens from exercising their basic rights.”
Rajab has spent over 180 days in detention since his arrest on 13 June 2016. We are deeply concerned about Rajab still being detained considering his deteriorating health condition. Rajab’s family believes that the unhygienic condition in his cell is possibly the reason for worsening of his health condition. On 22 November, Rajab was transferred for the third time to a police hospital after suffering chest pain, according to his son Adam Rajab.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the Bahraini government to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Nabeel Rajab and all political prisoners detained for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of speech and expression;
- Drop all charges against Nabeel Rajab at his trial on 15 December 2016, which are related to his right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech; and
- Abide by international legislation upholding the right to freedom of expression, without any restrictions or arbitrary legal procedures.