Fifteen rights groups have written to 11 states and the European Union on 21 November 2017 calling for action ahead of the conclusion of Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab’s appeal against his two-year sentence for stating that Bahrain bars reporters and human rights workers from entry into the country.
In the letters, which are addressed to the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union, as well as Germany, Ireland, France, Sweden, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway and Canada, the rights groups ask the states “to urgently raise, both publicly and privately, the case of Nabeel Rajab, one of the Gulf’s most prominent human rights defenders.” The letter further urges governments to support Rajab “by condemning his sentencing and calling for his immediate and unconditional release, and for all outstanding charges against him to be dropped.”
On 22 November 2017 Mr Rajab is expecting the conclusion of his appeal against a two-year prison sentence. Rajab was sentenced on 10 July 2017 on charges of “publishing and broadcasting fake news that undermines the prestige of the state” under article 134 of Bahrain’s Penal Code, in relation to his statement to journalists that the Bahraini government bars reporters and human rights workers from entering the country. In a previous appeal court hearing earlier this month, the judge refused to allow the defence’s evidence, including testimonies of journalists and researchers who had been banned from entering Bahrain.
The human rights defender, who is President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), has been detained since his arrest on 13 June 2016. 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).
Rajab faces up to a further 15 years in prison on a second set of charges related to comments he made on Twitter criticising the Saudi-led war in Yemen and exposing torture in Bahrain. His 18th court hearing will be held on 31 December 2017. In September, the Public Prosecution brought new charges against related to social media posts made while he was already in detention; he has also been charged with “spreading false news” in relation to his letter from a Bahraini jail published in the New York Times.