Nabeel Rajab’s appeal against a two-year sentence for “spreading false news” is to conclude on 22 November, after a Bahraini appeals court today ignored the defence’s final arguments and denied Rajab bail. Rajab, an Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award winner is one of Bahrain’s highest profile human rights campaigners and president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was sentenced in July 2017.
Rajab faces another trial on 19 November in relation to his social media posts on twitter, for which he faces up to 15 years in prison, for a total of 17 years.
Rajab’s lawyers submitted video evidence of journalists and researchers denied entry into Bahrain which would dispute the charge that he “spread false news” by, among other things, stating the Bahraini government bars reporters and human rights workers from entering the country. However, the court, led by Judge Bader Al-Abdulla, today refused to play the evidence in court. Judge Al-Abdulla set 22 November as the final court hearing, when its judgement is expected.
Nabeel Rajab was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison on charges of “spreading false news” under article 134 of Bahrain’s Penal Code. His appeal began in September.
He is currently serving his sentence in Jau Prison, where he was transferred to on 25 October, after over six months in the Ministry of Interior Hospital. Rajab has been held in humiliating conditions and isolated from other inmates.
On 8 Nov, Rajab was transferred to the Appeals Court in a vehicle which prison officers told him was used to transfer people sentenced to death, as opposed to the regular transfer bus. Rajab was photographed throughout the transfer and was kept in a suffocating heat in the vehicle, in which he struggled breathe. There are currently 16 people on death row in Bahrain, the majority of them sentenced to death in 2017. In January, three torture victims were unlawfully executed; the UN condemned the killing.
Rajab’s brother was barred from attending the court. Observers from the British, American and German embassies were present at the trial.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: “Nabeel has been subject to humiliating treatment by Jau Prison’s administration and the appeals court continues to deny him a fair trial. Bahrain continues to deny journalists and NGOs access. This is a fact, which Bahrain has imprisoned Nabeel for stating. The Government of Bahrain’s zero tolerance policy to human rights defenders is appalling, and yet instead of condemnation, Britain whitewashes the abuses while the US approves new arms sales to Bahrain.”