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Leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab arrested once again

UPDATE: Nabeel Rajab's detention has been extended until 19 June

(BCHR/IFEX) - 8 June 2012 - On the morning of 6 June 2012, prominent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab was re-arrested after he got a summons the day before on charges of “vilifying”. He was previously arrested on 5 May 2012 at the airport in Manama upon his arrival from Beirut and charged with insulting the statuary bodies, participating in illegal assembly, and calling others to join through social networking sites. On 6 May 2012, Nabeel Rajab was brought before the Criminal Court of First Instance in Manama and charged with incitement of illegal rallies by using the social media networking. The court remanded him in custody for seven days pending the investigation. He was released on bail on 28 May 2012.

Prior to his first arrest he stated: “Given that Bahrain in essence lacks a judiciary system that is independent and/or fair, and is far from being in line with international standards of a fair trial, I have decided to boycott the trial against myself. The judiciary system in Bahrain, today, is a tool used against human rights defenders and people calling for democracy and justice.”

According to an official statement published on the 6 June 2012, a complaint was filed by a group of people from Muharraq accusing Nabeel Rajab of “publicly vilifying Muharraq citizens and questioning their patriotism with disgraceful expressions posted via social networking websites.”

This is linked to 6 tweets posted on 2 June 2012 by Nabeel Rajab, that are solely directed towards the Prime Minster of Bahrain calling him to step down and highlighting his corruption.

Nabeel Rajab is the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). He has a very popular twitter account with more than 140,000 followers, which he uses to express his views in relation to the massive human rights violations in Bahrain.The GCHR and Bahrain BCHR have received information that the people who have filed the complaint against Nabeel Rajab include, Adel Falifel, the previous officer of the national security apparatus, who is accused over alleged 'torture on political activists' and directed threats in the recent months against Nabeel and other human rights defenders, and Saleh Bin Isa Bin Hindi, a consultant to the King of Bahrain, as well as some former security officers.

The GCHR and BCHR strongly believe that the government of Bahrain is trying to make this look like a case filed by the people against Nabeel Rajab. However, it is clear that those who filed the complaint are indeed part of or affiliated with the government. This is a blatant attempt by the authorities in Bahrain to take Nabeel Rajab away from his legitimate human rights work using, on this occasion, retired and current employees of the government to accomplish the task.

On 6 June 2012, the public prosecution ordered the detention of Nabeel for 7 days pending investigation. This is the fourth lawsuit filed against Nabeel Rajab in the last 30 days. The other cases are:

1- Participation in an illegal gathering and calling for a march without prior notification, in Manama; the trial in this case is postponed to 17 June 2012.

2- Defamation of an official authority over twitter in which the judge agreed to release Nabeel on 300 Bahraini dinar ($800) bail with a travel ban and postponed the hearing to 24 June 2012 pending investigation by the court. The case focuses on four tweets posted by Nabeel Rajab on the social media site Twitter in which he suggested that the Interior Ministry had not carried out proper investigations into civilian deaths.

3- Involvement in illegal practices and inciting others to join gatherings and calling for unauthorized marches through social networking sites; the trial in this case started on 5 June 2012, and was postponed to 12 June 2012.

In a hearing on Wednesday, relating to the third case where Nabeel is charged of staging illegal protests, he told the court that all charges against him are "vindictive accusations." "I was targeted because I was exercising my right to defend human rights, which is a right that is stipulated by the Bahraini constitution," he said. This arrest of Nabeel Rajab comes one day after he appeared on Al-Jazeera TV show AJStream and criticized the lack of serious reform and the continuation of violations against the people of Bahrain.

GCHR and BCHR condemn in the strongest terms the arrest, detention and trial of Nabeel Rajab. We believe strongly that his arrest is part of an ongoing campaign of judicial harassment against him in order to prevent him from continuing his legitimate and peaceful human rights work.

GCHR and BCHR respectfully remind you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 5 (b) which states that: “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (b) To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups;” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.
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