The decision by a Bahraini appeals court to uphold a six-month sentence against Nabeel Rajab is a sad example of how the country treats freedom of expression. Index strongly protests the court’s verdict and demands the country halt its judicial harassment of human rights defenders.
“Index reiterates its call on Bahrain to end its harassment of activists like Rajab, who are being punished for exercising their democratic right to free speech. We ask Britain, as a close ally of Bahrain, to insist that the kingdom upholds its human rights commitments”, Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg said.
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.