Bahrain- Leading Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab has been sentenced to prison on 10 July 2017 for two years after being found guilty of spreading "fake news” for TV interviews. In reality, he did nothing more than report about human rights violations, which continue to mount in the Gulf Kingdom.
Rajab is President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). He was unable to attend the trial because he is confined to his bed in the Ministry of Interior Hospital, where he has remained since surgery for bleeding ulcers in April 2017. His lawyers had argued that the trial should not proceed without him, yet this was the ninth hearing held without him. Previously on 14 June, Rajab’s lawyers as well as diplomats from various embassies and the European Union walked out of court in protest.
During the 14th hearing in the case, presided over by Sheikh Hamad bin Salman Al Khalifa of the Lower Criminal Court, Rajab was convicted "of disseminating false news, statements and rumours about the internal situation of the kingdom that would undermine its prestige and status" for giving media interviews in 2015 and 2016. “The irony in my Fathers case is that hes charged & jailed for accusing the Gov of suppressing freedom of speech,” tweeted his son Adam Nabeel Rajab. He can appeal the conviction and it is not yet clear if the sentence in this case includes time served since his arrest on 13 June 2016, as he is facing other charges.
Charges that Rajab faces in other cases include for tweets about allegations of torture in Jaw Prison and Saudi-led coalition’s involvement in the war in Yemen. He is next in court on 07 August in that case, for which he faces up to 15 years in prison. He may face additional prison time for charges related to opinion pieces published in the “New York Times” and “Le Monde”.
In May, the United Nations Committee Against Torture expressed particular concern over Rajab’s solitary confinement and called for his release. Numerous others have called for his release, including UN and European Parliament officials. On 27 June 2017, the Chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights Pier Antonio Panzeri issued a statement saying, “Rajab’s detention violates his right to freedom of expression. I call on the Bahraini authorities to grant lawyers and family members access to Nabeel Rajab, to drop all charges against him and to free him immediately.”
The Bahraini authorities made a commitment to invite the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al-Hussein to visit the country, yet this visit has been postponed indefinitely. GCHR calls for the UN to press for the visit to take place and for the High Commissioner to visit Rajab and other detained human rights defenders in prison. GCHR calls on the Bahraini authorities to allow this visit to take place, as part of their obligations to the UN under the Universal Periodic Review and other international commitments.
GCHR asks supporters to please tweet using the hashtag #FreeNabeel in English or Arabic calling on the authorities in Bahrain to:
Immediately and unconditionally free Nabeel Rajab;
While he remains in detention, allow Nabeel Rajab unhindered access to medical care, as well as to his lawyers and family; and
Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
Minister of Interior: Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al-Khalifa @moi_Bahrain
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs: Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa @Khaled_Bin_Ali
Cc. UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst @ForstMichel
UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression David Kaye @davidakaye
United Kingdom Foreign & Commonwealth Office Human Rights Communications team @FCOHumanRights
United States State Department @StateDept