29 December 2016 – The public prosecution in Bahrain today interrogated human rights defender Nabeel Rajab regarding a case related of allegedly “disseminating false documents and malicious rumors” and announced a seven-day detention order according to his lawyer. This follows the announcement yesterday when the High Criminal Court ordered Rajab’s release on bail and the postponement of his hearing to 23 January 2017. The undersigned organizations strongly condemn the continued judicial harassment and detention of Nabeel Rajab and call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release him and drop all charges against him.
Bahraini authorities yesterday announced the release of Nabeel Rajab after nearly seven months in pre-trial detention for tweets he posted about torture in Bahrain’s Jau Prison and the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. However, following the announcement of Rajab’s release, the Bahraini government immediately re-arrested him for investigation on separate charges. The public prosecution ordered a seven-day detention period on charges of “disseminating false documents and malicious rumors on the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain that could damage its status.”
“Today’s judicial harassment against leading rights activist Nabeel Rajab is another reminder of the repressive nature of Bahrain ruling family,” said BIRD’s Director of Advocacy Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei. “Bahrain rulers abandoned their commitments to reform and have now escalated repression to the highest degree we’ve seen since 2011. The repression continues to increase because of impunity for authorities’ abuses that are largely undenounced by Bahrain’s allies, including the UK and the US.”
The Bahraini government originally arrested Rajab on 13 June 2016 and charged him with “spreading false news and rumours about the internal situation in a bid to discredit Bahrain.” The authorities later referred Rajab to the High Criminal Court on charges related to comments he made on Twitter about the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and documentation of the torture epidemic in Bahrain’s Jau Prison. Rajab has been subjected to ongoing detention since that time, with periods mostly in solitary confinement. Rajab’s health has suffered due to his ongoing detention, and he has been rushed to the hospital for heart conditions on several occasions.
“The continued escalation of repression could be avoided if Bahrain’s allies pressured the Bahraini government to start a path of reform,” said ADHRB Executive Director Husain Abdulla. “The failure by European states to call for the release of Nabeel Rajab coupled with the US administration’s decision to lift the arms ban to Bahrain last year has given the authorities a green light to continue their assault on human rights in Bahrain.”
We, the undersigned, condemn in the strongest terms the ongoing detention and judicial harassment of Nabeel Rajab. We call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release Nabeel Rajab, drop all charges against him, and lift his travel ban.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
In September 2016, the New York Times published a letter written by Rajab from his jail cell. Authorities subsequently charged Rajab for allegedly publishing false statements undermining Bahrain. In November 2016, Rajab published another letter in the French newspaper Le Monde. Authorities called Rajab in for questioning over the article and has since accused him of “spreading false information and tendentious rumors” that insult Bahrain and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
On 20 December 2016, over 50 NGOs urged the UN to call for Rajab’s release, a call which the UN’s leading expert on free speech endorsed. On 23 December, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement calling for Rajab’s release. His spokesperson stated, “Criticising the Government should not be the grounds for detention or prosecution and we call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Rajab.”
Since his arrest in June 2016, a number of international government figures have called for the release of Rajab. The US State Department has called for the release of Rajab multiple times and stated they believe it is “clear that the government lacks evidence to support its case.” Members of the European Parliament have put out a series of video messages in support of Rajab and called for his release. Additionally, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights used his opening statement at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council to warn the Bahraini government that it must not continue on a path of repression: “The past decade has demonstrated repeatedly and with punishing clarity exactly how disastrous the outcomes can be when a Government attempts to smash the voices of its people, instead of serving them.”