Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, has been detained for over eight months since his initial arrest in June 2016. He has largely been held in solitary confinement. He is the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), one of the leading human rights organisations in the country.
The ongoing judicial harassment against Nabeel Rajab includes three cases against him on several charges. All of his charges relate to the exercise of his freedom of expression, including for comments made on Twitter, during media interviews and in opinion articles. He faces up to 18 years in prison, and in one case he has had his trial postponed ten times (his last court appearance was on 7 March 2017).
Case One: Twitter
In this case, Rajab faces 15 years for comments made on Twitter. He has been charged with the following:
- “Spreading rumours in wartime” and “insulting a neighbouring country”, under articles 133 and 215 of Bahrain’s penal code, for comments criticising the Saudi-led war in Yemen, of which Bahrain is a member. These charges carry up to ten years and two years respectfully.
- “Insulting a statutory body”, under article 216 of Bahrain’s penal code, for allegations of torture by security forces in Bahrain’s largest prison, Jau. This charge carries up to a two-year sentence.
On 28 December 2016, the judge authorised Rajab’s release on bail. However, he was immediately re-arrested and detained for investigation into a second case, related to media interviews.
Case Two: Media Interviews
Rajab has been charged with “spreading false news”, under article 134 of Bahrain’s penal code, in relation to media interviews he gave in 2014-15. According to the prosecution, these charges related to comments given during media interviews, in which he stated that foreign journalists and international NGOs cannot enter Bahrain and that the imprisonment of opposition actions was political and illegal. He faces 3 years in prison for this case.
Rajab’s statements for which he is being prosecuted were not without evidence. Campaign group Bahrain Watch has documented Bahrain’s denial of entry to journalists, academics and NGOs since 2011. People who have been denied entry include members of Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, Reporters Without Borders, and journalists including Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof.
Case Three: New York Times
On 3 September 2016, the New York Times published a letter Rajab wrote from jail. The following day, authorities charged him once more under article 134 of the penal code with “spreading false news.” As of yet, the prosecution has not conducted further investigation into the case or taken Rajab to trial.
Follow the timeline of Nabeel’s detention below: