Bahraini Government Urged to Immediately Release Nabeel Rajab
Washington, D.C. –Human Rights First calls on the Bahraini government to unconditionally release Nabeel Rajab during the upcoming October 16 hearing to appeal his three-year prison sentence. Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was convicted for his alleged part in “illegal gatherings.” This week, Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First’s President and CEO, was in Bahrain and attended a bail hearing for Rajab that concluded with the judge’s refusal to release him. “The charges against Nabeel are politically motivated and are a direct violation of his freedom of expression. Just last month, the Bahraini Government agreed to respect these freedoms and to abide by the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR),” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The kingdom has already abandoned that promise, as it did every promise of reform made before it.” Rajab has been in police custody since July 9, 2012, when he was given a three-month sentence for criticizing the country’s Prime Minister on Twitter. Rajab is one of the most prominent human rights activists in the country and has over 168,000 Twitter Followers. In August, he won his appeal in the Twitter case. On August 16, a lower Bahraini court sentenced him to three years in a separate case for “involvement in illegal practices, inciting gatherings and calling for unauthorized marches through social networking sites.” Though he was allowed out of jail for a few hours for his mother’s funeral a week ago, he is back in jail as the court considers the merged appeal of charges stemming from three different cases. Along with BCHR, Rajab 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.