“Wrong” directions from police yesterday confused protesters peacefully calling for human rights defender Nabeel Rajab’s release from jail outside the Bahraini embassy in London.
Police told around 15 individuals from prominent human rights organisations that they should stand on the opposite side of the street from the embassy. The protesters, who came from Amnesty International, Index on Censorship and Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) among others, questioned the legality of these instructions, which were ultimately not enforced.
Near the end of the hour-long protest, a police officer told Sophie Baggott from BIRD: “Initially we were told that there was a direction that people had to stand there [the opposite side of the street], however the reason I didn’t come back over and enforce it was because I was wrong … That’s why we left you here.”
A police officer later said: “Initially we were told that there was a direction that people had to stand there however … I was wrong” /7 pic.twitter.com/mc6pzScWW3
— BIRD (@BirdBahrain_) September 11, 2017
The police said they had been told around 350 people would be coming to protest. Police told Amnesty on the weekend that the Bahraini embassy had contacted them and said they had been alerted that more than 300 protesters would gather. At least eleven officers surrounded the event, which approached a 1:1 ratio in terms of the numbers of police and protesters. A police officer, who said he was one of those in charge, earlier told Index on Censorship’s David Heinemann: “Ideally I’d like you to do it [the protest] over the other side of the road”, but added that it was “fine” if not. He said the heavy police presence was to ensure people did not try to enter the embassy which, according to this officer’s knowledge, had happened “at least once”.
The police officer added: “Ideally I’d like you to do it [protest] over the side of the road…” when asked if we could protest here /6 pic.twitter.com/iQiru5rxiS — BIRD (@BirdBahrain_) September 11, 2017
The group had gathered to call for the release of Nabeel Rajab, who was facing another hearing in Bahrain. If found guilty, Rajab could face up to 15 years in prison for comments made on Twitter. Though he was scheduled to appear in court yesterday, the trial has been postponed until 27 September.