LETTER
Index award winners and judges call for release of Bahraini campaigner
31 Aug 2016
BY INDEX ON CENSORSHIP
Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab (Photo: The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy)

Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab (Photo: The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy)

Playwright David Hare, author Monica Ali, comedian Shazia Mirza, MP Keir Starmer and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka are among those who have written to Prime Minister Theresa May asking the UK government to call on Bahrain to release a campaigner imprisoned for just tweeting his opinions.

Nabeel Rajab has been in pre-trial detention in Bahrain since July. He has been held largely in solitary confinement, and for the first two weeks after his arrest was held in a filthy police cell that aggravated heart and other health issues.

Rajab was arrested for expressing opinions. He did not advocate or condone violence, nor is he accused of any violent act. Some of the criminalcommunications he is charged with include retweets of his support for organisations like Index on Censorship, which organised the letter. Rajab is also accused of insulting Bahrain’s ally Saudi Arabia. He faces up to 15 years in prison for his “crimes”.

Rajab is a former winner and judge of the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards and those who signed the letter included former fellow winners and judges.

“Free expression is under severe threat in Bahrain and the region,” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “It is vital that Bahrain’s democratic allies make clear to Bahraini authorities that their behaviour is unacceptable. The US State Department has already publicly called for Nabeel’s release. The British government should do the same.”

September 1, 2016

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to ask you to call publicly for the release of Nabeel Rajab. One of the Gulf region’s best-known human rights defenders, Mr Rajab has been in pre-trial detention since July. He has been held largely in solitary confinement, and for the first 15 days after his arrest on 13 June was held in a filthy police cell that aggravated heart and other health issues.

Mr Rajab was arrested simply for expressing opinions. He did not advocate or condone violence, nor is he accused of any violent act. Indeed, some of the “criminal” communications he is charged with include retweets in his support from international civil rights organisations like Index on Censorship. He is also accused of “insulting” Bahrain’s ally Saudi Arabia. He faces up to 15 years in prison for his “crimes”.

Free expression is under severe threat in Bahrain and the region. It is vital that Bahrain’s democratic allies make clear to Bahraini authorities that their behaviour is unacceptable. The US State Department has already publicly called for Nabeel’s release. We ask Britain to do the same.

Yours sincerely,

Index on Censorship former winners and judges

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Index on Censorship

Keir Starmer MP

David Hare, playwright

Monica Ali, author

Howard Brenton, playwright

Maureen Freely, author

Shazia Mirza, comedian

Charlie Smith, GreatFire.org, China

Rafael Marques de Morais, journalist, Angola

Serge Bambara, musician, Burkina Faso

Shazad Ahmed, campaigner, Pakistan

Yoav Shamir, director, Israel

Tamas Bodoky, campaigner, Hungary

Sanar Yurdatapan, composer, Turkey

Rakesh Sharma, filmmaker, India

Maria Teresa Ronderos, journalist

Farieha Aziz, campaigner, Pakistan

Safa Al-Ahmed, journalist, Saudi Arabia

Jean Hatzfeld, journalist and author, France

Mahsa Vahdat, artist, Iran

Murad Subay, artist, Yemen

Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, House of Lords

Wole Soyinka, playwright and poet

Zaina Erhaim, journalist, Syria

Mouad Belrhouate, musician, Morocco

For more information, please contact Sean Gallagher at [email protected] or +44 (0)207 963 7262

One response to “Index award winners and judges call for release of Bahraini campaigner”

  1. George Fielding says:

    I support and second this letter.