Bahrain Human Rights Activist Nabeel Rajab to be Released from Prison
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today welcomed reports that Bahrain Center for Human Rights President Nabeel Rajab is scheduled to be released from prison on Saturday, May 24, upon completion of his sentence. Rajab, a leading human rights defender in the kingdom, was convicted in 2012 for disturbing public order and his part in illegal gatherings.
“Nabeel’s release will be a major test for Bahrain, where most leading human rights defenders are in prison, in exile, or facing charges for their work,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “He should never have been jailed in the first place. We urge the government of Bahrain ensure that Nabeel will be allowed to remain at liberty, travel freely internationally, and not be prevented from doing his work as one of the world’s leading human rights defenders. We urge the United States Embassy to engage with Nabeel and other defenders in Bahrain.”
In August 2012, Rajab was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for his part in public protests. The sentence was later reduced to two years. Prior to his conviction, in July 2012, Nabeel was sentenced to three months in jail for tweets he wrote about the Bahraini prime minister. This conviction was later overturned on appeal only after he had begun his sentence for participating in protests.
“If the Bahrain regime thought taking Nabeel off the streets would result in some sort of calm, it clearly hasn’t worked. The country has become more polarized and volatile in the two years he has been in jail,” said Dooley. “Civil society voices like Nabeel’s – people who urge peaceful dissent – need to be heard, not silenced in prisons. The U.S. government should make clear to its ally the Bahrain government that it expects Nabeel to be able to go about his work as a human rights defender unhindered.”
Many peaceful opposition leaders jailed during the 2011 protests remain in prison, and Bahrain continues to jail those peacefully expressing their views including those who criticize the ruling monarchy on Twitter. Leading human rights defenders are harassed or jailed, and independent international human rights organizations, including Human Rights First, are refused entry to the country. Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government to publicly press the Bahraini regime to release these political prisoners and include them in peace negotiations.