The trial of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab was adjourned to 31 December for a technical report on his tweets.
Rajab faces up to 15 years in prison on charges related to his tweets exposing torture in a Bahraini prison and criticising the humanitarian cost of the war in Yemen. In September 2017, a new set of charges were brought against Rajab related to social media posts made in January 2017, when he was already in detention and without internet access. Rajab also faces a fourth set of charges related to a letter he penned to the New York Times in September 2016. In July 2017 he was sentenced to two years in prison for “spreading false news”, the appeal of which is expected to conclude on 22 November 2017.
The hearing was today adjourned to 31 December in order to hear from the expert who wrote the technical report. It is not expected to be the last hearing. The court brought back a forensic expert, who was asked about the IP address of Rajab’s Twitter account. The technical expert admitted to the court that he is unable to identify the IP Address, unless Twitter provides it.
The public prosecutor requested to call on the officer who confiscated Nabeel’s electronics devices for another case but will be examined for this case. This request was granted.
The forensic expert’s testimony did not last long. The court had another witness from the criminal investigation directorate (CID) who was not brought forward, though the reason for this was unclear. Rajab was bearded and in high spirits.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said: “Bahrain’s horrific rights record has hit a new level after being blacklisted by the UN for being part of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Persecuting Nabeel for advocating peace is heinous crime added to the catalogue of abuses by Bahrain’s rulers, The continued; unethical support of the UK and the US to Bahrain fosters the culture of impunity.”
Rajab, the founder of President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was arrested on 13 June 2016 and has been detained ever since. He was held largely in solitary confinement in the first nine months of his detention, violating the UN Standard Minimum Rules for Non-Custodial Measures (Tokyo Rules) which state: “pre-trial detention shall be used as a means of last resort in criminal proceedings, with due regard for the investigation of the alleged offence and for the protection of society and the victim.”
In early April 2017, Rajab was admitted to the Bahrain Defence Force hospital for a necessary surgery. He was transferred back to police custody just a day later, before having recovered from his operation, and his health deteriorated significantly; from there he was transferred to the Ministry of Interior Clinic (Al-Qalaa), where he remains to date. Between April and August 2017, Rajab was unable to attend court, which held numerous hearings in his absence, including his sentencing. Rajab was transferred back to Jau Prison in October.
The UN Committee Against Torture has called for Rajab’s release.
In response to a parliamentary question, the UK Foreign Office Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, said: “We continue to closely monitor the case of Nabeel Rajab and have frequently raised it with the Bahraini Government at the highest levels. The UK Government continues to emphasise the need to respect the rights of all citizens, including freedom of expression.”
In the US, the Trump Administration this year removed Obama-era human rights conditions on arms sales, one of which was the unconditional release of Rajab. In September, the Trump Administration approved the sale of F-16 jets worth $3.8 billion.