18 September 2017 – Nabeel Rajab faces a new set of absurd charges after Bahrain’s Public Prosecution charged him for social media posts on Twitter and Instagram. The social media posts he was questioned about were made when he was already in police custody in January 2017, where he had no internet access.
Rajab is already serving a two year sentence for speaking to journalists and faces a trial on 27 September on separate charges relating to his twitter. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy condemns the judicial harassment of Rajab and calls for his immediate release and the dropping of all outstanding charges against him.
The leading human rights campaigner was presented to the Public Prosecution on 12 September and charged with “spreading false news”, “inciting hatred against the regime” and “inciting non-compliance with the law” under articles 165, 168 and 172 of the Penal Code. The charges relate to messages posted on accounts carrying Nabeel Rajab’s name on Instagram and Twitter when he was already in police custody and without internet access. The charges relate to messages which he had no control over.
Rajab, who is already in police custody, was returned to the Ministry of Interior Hospital where he is currently held. He was not held for further investigation.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, BIRD: “These new charges are utterly ridiculous. Nabeel Rajab was in Bahraini police custody when the social media posts he is charged for were made. They know he didn’t make them, but they will go to any lengths to keep him in prison at all costs. The fact that Nabeel was not held for investigation suggests they will wait until the day he walks free from prison to begin prosecution on these new, absurd charges. This is a textbook example of how Bahrain treats its bravest campaigners with utter contempt.”
On Monday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned Bahrain’s campaign of reprisals against civil society and its democratic “shut down.” High Commissioner Zeid Raad Al-Hussein hit out at Bahrain, saying: “No public relations campaign can paper over the violations being inflicted on the people of Bahrain. They deserve real respect for their human rights.”
Other Trials and Charges
Rajab has been in police custody since June 2016, when he was arrested from his home in Bani Jamra. He currently faces trial on very similar charges related to tweets criticising the war in Yemen and exposing torture in Bahrain. In this long-running trial, Rajab faces up to 15 years in prison for “insulting a statutory body”, “spreading false news” and “insulting a neighbourly country”.
He last faced trial on 11 September, the day before the new charges were brought. A new judge was overseeing the case, and postponed the trial to 27 September.
In July, Rajab was sentenced to two years in prison for speaking to journalists.
Rajab also faces outstanding charges of “spreading false news” in relation to a Letter from a Bahraini Jail published in the New York Times in 2016.
Rajab has been hospitalised since April 2017, when he underwent surgery. He is currently held at the Ministry of Interior Hospital (Qalaa).