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Bahraini rights defender's jail sentence upheld

Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab flashes his trademark victory sign.
Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab flashes his trademark victory sign.

BCHR/GCHR

(BCHR/IFEX) - 12 December 2012 - The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) express grave concern regarding the Court of Appeal's ruling which reduces the three-year jail sentence of Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR, director of GCHR and deputy director at the International Federation of Human Rights, to two years in jail instead for the mere exercise of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

The Court of Appeal's ruling represents an explicitly political decision which proves once again that the government of Bahrain continues to use a politically-oriented judiciary to create false cases against human rights defenders and activists. Rajab has been imprisoned since 9 July 2012 as part of a judicial harassment campaign aimed at preventing him from continuing his legitimate and peaceful work as a human rights defender.

Rajab was initially imprisoned for a tweet he issued which was critical of the Bahraini government. He has only used peaceful means to defend the rights of the people in Bahrain and the tweet was an exercise of his freedom of expression which shows the peaceful nature of his activities as a human rights defender. On 9 July 2012, he was fined $800 and sentenced to three months in prison. While serving this sentence, Rajab was sentenced on 16 August 2012 to three years in prison for advocating peaceful demonstrations to defend the civil and human rights of all the citizens in the country. It is these charges which were reviewed by the Court of Appeal, as the charges related to the tweet were overturned on 23 August 2012.

During the Court of Appeal's hearings the defense team faced many obstacles including:

• International experts who were introduced to the court as defense witnesses were denied entry at Bahrain international airport;

• An altered video was submitted as evidence by the pubic prosecution office;

• Insufficient evidence submitted by the public prosecution office;

• The defense team was denied access to the evidence submitted by the prosecution.

In addition to the above obstacles faced by the defense team during the hearings, Rajab suffered severe and inhumane conditions during his detention. At various stages, he was subjected to the following forms of ill-treatment:

• Arbitrary solitary confinement;

• Housed in a cell with dead animals;

• Denied access to his family;

• Denied access to newspapers;

• Repeated strip-searches and other intentionally humiliating searches;

• Forced to repeatedly stand and sit, despite a herniated disc in his back;

• Only allowed six liters of water per week, though he suffers from gallbladder stones and has been recommended by a doctor to drink large amounts of water every day.

The GCHR and BCHR believe that Rajab has been targeted by a campaign of judicial harassment due to his legitimate and peaceful work in the defense of human rights and the exercise of his freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Furthermore, his continued imprisonment is a result of the authorities' unwillingness to implement real reform in the country and the silence of the international community.

The GCHR and BCHR call for the immediate release of leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab as well as all other detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain. The government of Bahrain must drop all the politically motivated charges against Rajab and other detained activists.

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