Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab has been in prison in Bahrain for a full year for expressing opinions. During this time, he has been primarily held in solitary confinement and suffered health issues while facing repeated hearing postponements.
Representatives from Index on Censorship, English Pen, Reporters without Borders, Amnesty International, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier, were present to show support for the 2012 Freedom of Expression Campaigning Award-winning Rajab in the face of his continued detainment. Protesters brought signs with photos of Rajab to display as they stood outside the embassy. When asked about the reason for their support, protesters mentioned Rajab’s work as a human rights defender as someone who speaks for the voiceless.
At the protest, supporters expressed their solidarity with Rajab and the desire that news of this demonstration would reach him and his family and give them hope even after a year in prison of mostly solitary confinement. Over the last year, Rajab suffered poor health in prison and underwent major surgery, to then be returned to prison quickly against medical professionals’ recommendations.
Two of Rajab’s four legal cases have been postponed over 20 times without clear explanation. One of the charges against Rajab is for a tweet about the war on Yemen and torture in Jau Prison. Evidence against Rajab includes a tweet from Index on Censorship calling for his release. Protesters on Tuesday told Index they were demonstrating against this lack of freedom of expression.
Former MP Margaret Ferrier reflected on her interactions with Rajab and her experiences standing up for freedom of expression rights in Parliament. She explained the importance of standing up for human rights, whether through protests or reaching out to MPs who can directly affect policy. She said, “Today proves that Nabeel has not been forgotten.” She continued stating the oppression of expression “is wrong, its got to stop.”
During the protest, director of advocacy for the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, approached the doors of the embassy to hold up a picture of Nabeel Rajab to the embassy sign. He was arrested for trespassing.
Rajab’s next hearing is set for 14 June in Bahrain.