Bahraini Activist Nabeel Rajab Returned to Jail as Judge Delays Appellate Ruling
Washington, D.C. – Today, a Bahraini judge refused to release Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), after his defense counsel presented evidence casting doubt on his conviction and three-year prison term for his part in “illegal gatherings.” Instead, the judge delayed the ruling in Rajab’s case until October 16 and ordered him back to jail. “The refusal to release Nabeel Rajab today fits the recent pattern perfectly,” observed Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Week after week, we’re witnessing a relentless slow-motion crackdown on human rights defenders in the form of denied appeals of old sham trial verdicts as well as new political convictions. The regime can’t sentence and imprison its way out of its human rights crisis any more than it can wish away the national and international calls for reform.” The judge in today’s proceeding noted that he would hand down a verdict in Rajab’s case on October 16. In August, Rajab won his appeal of a three-month prison sentence in a separate case for criticizing the country’s Prime Minister on Twitter, where Rajab has over 168,000 followers. Rajab is one of the region’s leading human rights figures, and along with BCHR, has won several international awards for his work in exposing human rights violations in the country over the last 18 months. These awards include the 2012 Roger Baldwin Medal of Freedom, awarded by Human Rights First, the 2011 Ion Ratui Democracy Award, from the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the 2011 Silbury Prize, from UK parliamentarians. Today’s court proceeding comes just one week after Bahrain pledged to implement more than 140 of the 176 recommendations laid out in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Council. That pledge was met with skepticism by those following the Kingdom’s human rights reform progress. In other verdicts reported today, a policeman was sentenced to seven years in prison for killing protester Hani Abdel Aziz last year, while two other officers were reportedly acquitted of the murder of protestors Ali al-Moumin and Issa Abdel Hasan in 2011.