BAHRAIN: March 23, 2017 – On March 22, 2017, Manama’s Fifth High Criminal Court postponed again Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab’s trial in the Twitter case, in clear contempt of international human rights standards. His arbitrary detention and judicial harassment are only meant to silence one of Bahrain’s most vocal human rights defenders, say the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Front Line Defenders, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT).
Arbitrarily detained since June 13, 2016, Nabeel Rajab is facing a series of charges and up to 18 years in prison. In the “Twitter case”, ongoing since April 2, 2015, Nabeel Rajab is accused of “deliberately spreading false information and malicious rumours with the aim of discrediting the State”, “disseminating false rumours in time of war”, “insulting a statutory body” and “offending a foreign country [Saudi Arabia]” in relation to Tweets denouncing the torture of detainees in the Kingdom’s Jaw Prison and human rights violations perpetrated by the Saudi-Arabia led coalition air strikes in Yemen. The thirteenth hearing is scheduled on May 17, 2017. In addition, Nabeel Rajab is facing charges of “spreading false information and malicious rumours about domestic matters with the aim of discrediting and adversely affecting the State’s prestige” in a separate case related to three televised interviews made in 2015 and 2016 in which Nabeel Rajab exposed Bahrain’s poor human rights record. The next hearing in that case is on May 3, 2017.
“Despite a court order to temporarily release him following a failure to give any sufficient evidence in the Twitter case, Nabeel Rajab remains arbitrarily detained. Arbitrary and solitary detention, endless postponements, denial of visa for international human rights NGOs have been jeopardising the judicial process. Bahrain is failing its international obligations and makes a mockery of justice,” declared the organisations.
Further investigations are underway and may lead to additional charges, including “intentionally broadcasting false news and malicious rumours abroad impairing the prestige of the state” following the publication on September 5, 2016 of an Op-Ed in The New York Times with his by-line, which discussed the conditions of his imprisonment and arrest. In addition, he has been questioned about the publication on December 19, 2016, of a letter published in his name in the French newspaper Le Monde which urged Paris and Berlin to “reassess their relationship with [members of the Gulf Cooperation Council], which actively work against democracy and human rights and fan the flames of violence and extremism.”
“The public prosecution has failed to provide any evidence of wrongdoing against Nabeel. Yet he has been detained for 282 days. There is no presumption of innocence, he is already serving a sentence without any conviction. Pending charges must be dropped and he must be immediately and unconditionally released,” added the organisations.
Nabeel Rajab, is the co-founder and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of GCHR, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of the Middle East advisory committee at Human Rights Watch.
While in detention he is being held in solitary confinement the vast majority of the time and denied access to proper care, despite the impact on his health. International NGOs are not able to gain access to Nabeel Rajab in prison, nor have they been authorised to visit the country, making it extremely difficult for them to monitor the trial.
For more details on his case, see statement by ANHRI, Front Line Defenders, GCHR and the Observatory, please see: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1460