14 July 2015 – Prominent Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab was released by royal pardon after serving four of a six-month jail term for ‘insulting the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence’ in a tweet yesterday, 13 July. The September 2014 tweet in question was made in response to news that government security personnel had joined the terrorist group ISIS.
On 2 April 2015, police arrested Nabeel Rajab at his home on three separate charges. The first, “insulting a statutory body”, is in relation to his documentation of the mistreatment and torture of inmates in Bahrain’s Jau Prison. His additional charges of “spreading rumours during wartime” and “spreading false news”, are both in connection to his criticism of Bahraini involvement in the Yemen conflict on humanitarian grounds.
In the evening of 13 July, the Government of Bahrain released a short announcement stating that “His Majesty the King issued a royal decree granting a special pardon to Nabeel Ahmed Abdul Rasul Rajab for health reasons.” However, his three ongoing charges still stand.
The release of Nabeel Rajab comes less than a week since the European Parliament adopted an Urgency Resolution on the critical Human Rights situation in Bahrain, in which it called for the release of all imprisoned Human Rights Defenders and opposition leaders, in particular Nabeel Rajab. It further called on the Government of Bahrain end to Human Rights violations and to respect the freedom of expression.
The news comes just days after the re-arrest of Ebrahim Sharif, former Secretary General of the political society National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), after a speech he made which, the Ministry of Interior allege, encouraged “the overthrow of the government and incited hatred.” Ebrahim was released from prison less than a month ago after spending four years and three months of a five-year sentence handed down in a military court in 2011, for nothing more than exercising his right to freedom of expression.
ECDHR welcomes the release of Nabeel Rajab but re-iterates the call for the release of all prisoners of conscience. ECDHR further urges the Government of Bahrain to act in line with its commitments under International and Humanitarian law.