5 Oct, 2014

Amnesty: Bahrain must release activist Nabeel Rajab, detained for 'insulting' tweets

‘The detention of Nabeel Rajab is yet another serious blow to freedom of expression in Bahrain’ - Said Boumedouha
The Bahraini authorities must immediately release a prominent human rights activist who has been detained for posting tweets deemed insulting to the country’s Ministry of Interior, Amnesty International said today. 
Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, could face up to three years in prison for comments he posted online about reports that members of Bahrain’s security forces had joined the Islamic State armed group in Iraq.
Rajab, who is also the Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, was summoned for questioning by Bahrain’s Criminal InvestigationsDirectorate yesterday afternoon and remanded in custody overnight. Bahrain’s Public Prosecution today ordered his detention for seven days, pending investigation under an article of the country’s Penal Code that criminalises “offending government authorities, institutions and agencies”. 
Rajab returned to Bahrain on Tuesday after a two-month advocacy tour to a number of European countries to highlight the human rights situation in Bahrain. He was released from prison in Bahrain in May after serving a two-year sentence on charges of participating in an “illegal gathering”, “disturbing public order” and “calling for and taking part in demonstrations” in the capital Manama “without prior notification”.
Amnesty has repeatedly called on the Bahraini authorities to repeal articles in its Penal Code that criminalise freedom of expression. Laws that prohibit insults or the disrespect of heads of state, public figures, the military, government institutions, flags or symbols are contrary to international law and standards.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Said Boumedouha said:
“The detention of Nabeel Rajab is yet another serious blow to freedom of expression in Bahrain and entrenches growing attempts by the authorities to muzzle dissenters.
“He must be released immediately and these outrageous charges against him must be dropped.
“Such repressive laws create an environment where freedom of expression is permanently stifled. These laws should be abolished.”

Persecution of activists in Bahrain

Other activists in Bahrain have faced similar persecution:
Maryam Al-Khawaja is on trial on a charge of “assaulting police officers” at Bahrain International Airport. Amnesty believes she is being targeted for doggedly seeking to expose human rights violations taking place in Bahrain since 2011.
Nader Abdulemam is currently detained in Dry Dock Prison after comments he posted on Twitter were interpreted as derogatory towards Khalid bin al-Waleed, a companion of the prophet Muhammad. He is charged with “publicly insulting a religious figure of worship”.

Bahrain - Nabeel Rajab Must be Released Immediately, UN

5 Oct, 2014

HRW: Bahrain: Rights Activist Detained

(Beirut, October 3, 2014) – Bahrain authorities arrested a prominent rights activist on October 1, 2014, after he criticized the government. Nabeel Rajab, the activist, faces charges that he “offended national institutions” in comments on social media on September 28.

Rajab had returned to Bahrain on September 30 from Europe, where he had made public appearances criticizing the Bahraini government’s human rights record and calling for stronger international action against Bahrain. Bahrain should drop the charges against Rajab and release him immediately, Human Rights Watch said.

“These charges show that Bahrain’s rulers are determined to silence one of their most outspoken critics,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “In arresting a peaceful critic, Bahrain’s government has shown its contempt for basic rights like free speech.”

In his comments on September 28, Rajab criticized the government for using counterterrorism laws to prosecute human rights defenders and charged that Bahraini security forces foster violent beliefs akin to those of the Islamic State. He noted that a former Interior Ministry employee had joined the extremist Islamist group.

Mohamed Isa al Binali, a former security officer with the Interior Ministry, appears in a YouTube clip urging other security force members to defect. On September 4, the Bahrain Ministry of Interior tweeted that “former officer Mohammed Isa Al Binali was terminated from employment for failure to appear at work.”

One of Rajab’s tweets said, “Many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.”

On October 1, Rajab received a written summons to appear at the cybercrimes unit of the Criminal Investigation Directorate. His lawyer, Jalila al-Sayed, told Human Rights Watch that officers questioned him for 45 minutes about his comments, but prevented her from taking notes. The officers arrested him for violating article 216 of the penal code and referred his case to the public prosecutor. Article 216 states that “A person shall be liable for imprisonment or payment of a fine if he offends by any method of expression the National Assembly, or other constitutional institutions, the army, law courts, authorities or government agencies,” and is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Al-Sayed was also present on October 2 when the public prosecutor interrogated Rajab. Al-Sayed told Human Rights Watch that Rajab answered the prosecutor’s questions freely but that the prosecutor refused to include what she characterized as exculpatory evidence in the formal record of the interrogation. This included video clips of former members of the Bahraini security forces encouraging current members to join ISIS forces, she said.

The public prosecutor ordered Rajab’s detention for another seven days while investigations continue.

The UN Human Rights Committee, the body of independent experts that monitors state compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain has ratified, issued an authoritative interpretation on the scope of the right to freedom of expression and opinion. In its General Comment 34, the committee stated that “In circumstances of public debate concerning public figures in the political domain and public institutions, the value placed by the Covenant upon uninhibited expression is particularly high.” It also stated that “states parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.”

Bahrain authorities have previously prosecuted Rajab on politically motivated charges. He was detained from May 5 to May 28, 2012, for Twitter remarks criticizing the Interior Ministry for failing to investigate attacks by what Rajab said were pro-government gangs against Shia residents. On June 28, 2012, a criminal court fined him 300 Bahraini Dinars (US$790) in that case.

Authorities again detained Rajab on June 6, 2012, for another Twitter remark calling for Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa to step down. On July 9, 2012, a criminal court convicted and sentenced him to three months in prison on that charge. A court of appeal overturned that verdict, but in a separate case a criminal court sentenced him to three years in prison for organizing and participating in three demonstrations between January and March 2012. The authorities presented no evidence that Rajab advocated or engaged in violence. Rajab was released on May 24, 2014, after serving two years in prison.

Bahrain’s close allies, the United States and the United Kingdom, should press vigorously for Rajab’s immediate release, Human Rights Watch said.

“Nabeel Rajab has consistently criticized the Bahrain government when it deserves to be criticized, peacefully and at great personal cost,” Stork said. “The US and the UK haven’t pressed Bahrain hard enough to counter its widespread repression and intolerance of public criticism.”



Bahrain Human rights hero Nabeel Rajab arrested for a tweet

Said Yousif Almuhafdha intervention at 27th HRC 22-September-2014

27th Regular Session Human Rights Council - NABEEL RAJAB

Bahrain: Rights Activist Speaks Out Before Arrest

30 Aug, 2014

Leading Human Rights Defender Maryam Al-Khawaja Detained Upon Arrival to Bahrain


The authorities have stated that Maryam Al-Khawaja will appear before a judge on the morning of 31 August 2014. No information has been provided regarding the charges against her.


The Bahrain Center for Human rights expresses its grave concern over the denial of entry to human rights defender and co-director of the Gulf Center for Human rights, Maryam al-Khawaja, to her native country Bahrain.

Maryam al-Khawaja decided to fly to Bahrain to visit her father, the detained human rights defender, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja who began an open hunger strike on August, 26. Al-Khawaja's health has been rapidly deteriorating and there is urgent concern for his well-being. (Read more: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/7013)

Upon the arrival to Bahrain airport hours earlier, Maryam al-Khawaja was told by security forces that she doesn't have Bahraini citizenship. Al-Khawaja's Danish passport was taken and she was told to close her mobile phone or it would be confiscated.

Maryam al-Khawaja sent us the below message:

"If this letter has gone public then it means that the Bahraini authorities have not let me into the country. Due to this, I have decided to launch a water-only hunger strike and to refuse to leave the Bahraini airport. I will continue the hunger strike until I am allowed in to Bahrain to see my father.
I want to make it clear that I refuse any and all food or treatment during my hunger strike.
Maryam Al-Khawaja"

The BCHR calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately allow Maryam al-Khawaja to access to her family and lawyer and allow her in her country Bahrain.

#انقذوا حسين #SaveHussain #البحرين #Bahrain

Nabeel Rajab discusses the continuing demonstrations in Bahrain