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Bahrain sentences Nabeel Rajab to three years in prison on charges related to protesting

Nabeel Rajab
Nabeel Rajab

BCHR

UPDATE: On 23 August 2012, Nabeel Rajab was acquitted of the charges of libel in the Twitter case, but remains in prison for the other case, for which he was sentenced to three years in prison. Please see a letter from his family to US President Barack Obama here and an update on his prison conditions here. The verdict in that case is now expected on 11 December 2012.

(BCHR/IFEX) - 16 August 2012 - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) condemn in the strongest terms the sentence passed today against the detained human rights defender Nabeel Rajab by the Bahraini government on charges related to protesting. Rajab was sentenced to a total of three years imprisonment in three cases, to be immediately carried out.

Nabeel Rajab is the president of the BCHR, the director of the GCHR, the vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and on the advisory board for the MENA section in Human Rights Watch. He is a renowned human rights defender, and in 2011 he was awarded with the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award because he "has worked tirelessly and at considerable personal peril to advance the cause of democratic freedoms and the civil rights of Bahraini citizens".

The GCHR and BCHR believe that the only reason for targeting Rajab is to prevent him from continuing his legitimate and peaceful human rights work.

He is already serving a 3 months imprisonment sentence on charges of "libeling the citizens of the town of Muharraq over Twitter", another case of an ongoing campaign of judicial harassment against Rajab. He has been in prison since 9 July 2012 for this charge.

As reported by his son Adam, after the sentences were read out today, Rajab stated: "You can jail me for 3 years or 30 years, but I will not back down or retreat (from my human rights work)".

Rajab's family had recently written an appeal to the international community regarding his imprisonment and 19 members of the US congress had signed a letter demanding that Rajab and all other political prisoners be released.

Rajab has been targeted for his work for several years; however, as his role became more vital in the last year in reporting the severe violations to human rights in Bahrain following the crackdown on protesters, the acts of retaliation by the regime against him have increased. He was dragged from his house after midnight on 20 March 2011 by masked security forces and he was beaten and harassed while blind folded and handcuffed.

His house was attacked with tear gas bombs twice in April and May 2011 putting the lives of his family at risk. The authorities have never held brought the responsible parties to task for these attacks. Rajab was interrogated several times about the statements he made on Twitter, including by the military prosecution in May 2011. He was banned from travelling for several months in 2011 to prevent him from participating in global human rights events and meetings. The regime also made it difficult for Rajab to work and ruined his personal business. Even his family members were targeted as his children were harassed in school and his wife was sacked from her job after a campaign of harassment so that the regime could make sure that Rajab's only income was stopped.

However, since the beginning of 2012, the regime has moved to the practice of judicial harassments against Rajab, launching up to 5 cases against him until today, accusing him with "participating in an illegal gathering and calling for a march without prior notification", "calling for an illegal gathering over social networks", "Insulting an official authority over Twitter", and defaming the AlMuharraq people via Twitter. Rajab has been arrested and detained several times in the last few months, beginning in May 2012, with the most recent arrest on 9 July 2012. He has been convicted in all these cases by the Bahraini court and he was fined BHD300 (US$800) for insulting the authorities via Twitter on 28 June 2012. He was sentenced to a total of 3 years and 3 months in prison in the other cases.

Read the full press release
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