Index on Censorship has condemned the latest extension to the detention of Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab on spurious charges. He was arrested in early April over comments made on Twitter regarding abuses at Bahrain’s Jaw prison and the crisis in Yemen. On 11 May, Bahraini authorities, who had already extended Rajab’s pre-trial detention several times, prolonged his detention for a further two weeks.
“Bahrain has committed publicly to respecting human rights, but continues to flout its international commitments by denying its citizens the right to peaceful protest, peaceful assembly, and to free expression,” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “We urge the new UK government to use its position as an ally of Bahrain to ensure the country upholds those commitments and ends the harassment of Nabeel Rajab and his fellow democracy activists.”
Earlier this year, Bahrain revoked the citizenship of 72 individuals, including journalists, bloggers, and political and human rights activists, rendering many of them stateless — as part of its latest attempt to crack down on those critical of the government.
Rajab was handed down a six-month suspended sentence pending payment of a fine in January for a tweet that both the ministry of interior and the ministry of defence claimed “denigrated government institutions”.
The tweet in question stated:
— Nabeel Rajab (@NABEELRAJAB) September 28, 2014
Since then, Rajab’s appeal against the verdict has been postponed repeatedly and he was arrested on 2 April over subsequent tweets and an opinion piece published on the Huﬃngton Post. If he is convicted on all current charges, Rajab could face more than 10 years in prison.
Rajab is a former winner of a Index on Censorship freedom of expression award, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Advisory Board. He has continuously been targeted by Bahraini authorities over his human rights campaigning work. He was released in May 2014 after spending two years in prison on spurious charges including writing offensive tweets and taking part in illegal protests.
Last month, Rajab’s civil society colleagues human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and political activist Salah Al-Khawaja were prevented from attending the funeral of their eldest brother Abdulaziz, who passed away in Bahrain. Abdulhadi is serving a life sentence due to his human rights work and Salah is serving five years for his political activism; both are prisoners of conscience and torture survivors.