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IFEX deplores three-year jail sentence given to Bahraini member Nabeel Rajab

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. He is being held in poor conditions. Please see a letter from his family to US President Barack Obama here.

Bahrain rights defender Nabeel Rajab holds up a message of
Bahrain rights defender Nabeel Rajab holds up a message of "resistance" earlier this year


IFEX, the world's largest network of free expression organisations, strongly denounces the three-year prison sentence handed down today, 16 August 2012, to Nabeel Rajab, president of IFEX member Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), for his role in pro-democracy protests.

"By sentencing Nabeel to prison, the Bahrain government is sending a strong message to the world that it doesn't care about human rights. With this decision the Kingdom's international reputation remains at stake," said Annie Game, IFEX executive director.

"Jailing the most prominent rights defender in the country is a disturbing sign for others who refuse to be silent on Bahrain's human rights record," added Game.

IFEX joins Rajab's family and rights groups, such as BCHR, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Index on Censorship, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Human Rights First, Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights, in calling for the immediate release of Rajab, as well as for the Bahrain government to implement reforms promised after the 14 February 2011 crackdown.

The judge ruled in three cases today, all related to Rajab's participation in peaceful protests, and handed down a one-year jail sentence in each. Rajab's lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi said that he plans to appeal the ruling.

Rajab is already serving three months in jail over a tweet criticising the Prime Minister, which allegedly "insulted" Bahrainis. The appeal verdict in this case is scheduled for 23 August 2012.

After the sentences were read out today, Rajab said, "You can jail me for three years or 30 years, but I will not back down or retreat [from my human rights work]."

"We know Nabeel means what he says," said Game. "But we want to make sure he doesn't have to continue his critical work behind bars."

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