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Bahrain: “Their freedom is their right” campaign names Nabeel Rajab prisoner of the month in September 2016

2016-09-01

Cairo/Beirut - “Their freedom is their right” (“#حريتهم_حقهم”) is a campaign for defending the rights of prisoners of conscience launched by Maharat Foundation and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) on 04 May 2014. The campaign was also joined by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), in addition to the members of the Arab Group in the IFEX network, who nominated Nabeel Rjab as the campaign’s prisoner of the month in September 2016.

Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab is President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of GCHR, and also serves as Deputy Secretary-General of FIDH. On 13 June 2016, Bahraini security forces raided Rajab's house and arrested him on charges of "spreading false news and rumours about the internal situation in an attempt to tarnish the reputation of Bahrain," a charge linked to statements given by Rajab during television interviews in early 2015 and 2016. Since his arrest Rajab has been held in poor conditions and he could face sentences of up to 15 years in prison.

On 26 June 2016, Rajab’s lawyer was informed that previous charges against Rajab, made in violation of his right to freedom of opinion and expression, had been referred to the court, including "spreading rumours in times of war," and "insulting a statutory body." These separate charges were first made in April 2015, after he published a set of tweets criticising torture on a large scale in Bahraini prisons, and the human costs of the war in Yemen. But these charges were suspended after his release by royal pardon during the month of Ramadan, in July 2015, after he served part of a six-month prison sentence. Following his release, a travel ban was imposed on Rajab. Rajab’s hearing in the case has twice been postponed, with the next hearing on 5 September 2016.

Rajab is facing difficult health conditions, since he suffers from gallstones and skin infections, and authorities have refused to secure proper treatment. After 15 days of solitary confinement, Rajab was transferred to the military hospital after suffering from unprecedented heart problems. According to his family, Rajab began to suffer from irregular heartbeats and was transferred to the coronary care unit at the military hospital, where he was treated for a brief period, then returned to prison immediately afterwards. His wife, Sumaya Rajab, confirmed in a press statement that "We raised extreme concern about the effects that isolated detention would have on Nabeel's health and we were ignored. Nabeel never suffered heart problems before. My husband is a human rights defender and does not deserve this treatment."

Rajab’s human rights activities began in the 1990s at the beginning of the Bahraini human rights movement, and with the popular movement in Bahrain in 2011 he became one of the most famous Arab activists on the Internet. On the social networking site Twitter, he has more than 320,000 followers. Since the Arab Spring in 2011, Rajab has been subjected to prosecution many times, and was arrested repeatedly during 2012. He spent two years in prison between 2012 and 2014 on charges of "organising an unauthorised protest."

After his release in 2014, Rajab carried out an advocacy tour in Europe, and visited in September 2014 the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the European Parliament in Brussels, and some European capitals. He also participated in the 27th session of the Human Rights Council.

If people are interested in participating in the campaign, please read the last paragraph below and do what they can do to support Nabeel Rajab.

About "Their freedom is their right" campaign:

The "Their freedom is their right" campaign was launched on 04 May 2015 to mark World Press Freedom Day (03 May). (See gohod.net) It is designed to highlight the cases of Arab prisoners of conscience and those behind bars for expressing their freedom of opinion in a peaceful way, through writing articles, commenting on Facebook, publishing photos, participating in a peaceful demonstration, lifting a banner, tweeting on Twitter, contributing though a work of art or speaking in a meeting.

The campaign highlights an Arab prisoner of conscience on a monthly basis, in order to support his or her right to freedom as a fundamental requirement for all prisoners of conscience. The campaign also demands the protection of prisoners of conscience from torture, supports the right to a fair trial, calls for improved prison conditions and protection from abuse, and asks those responsible to ensure prisoners receive the needed treatment. The right of every Arab citizen to freedom of expression is a right and not a gift, whether we agree or not. The words don’t go to court. The opinion is not punishable by law. So, the affiliated organizations to this campaign see that the duty of everyone is to participate in defending these rights.

The Egyptian student Mahmoud Mohammed Ahmed, Saudi rights activist Waleed Abu Al-Khair, Kuwaiti journalist Ayad Al-Harbi, Qatari poet Mohammed Al-Ajami, Omani poet and blogger Muawiya Rawahi, Mauritanian lawyer Biram Dah Abeid, Bahraini human rights defender Abduljalil Al-Singace, Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayyad, Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Syrian human rights defender and lawyer Razan Zaitouneh, Egyptian journalist Hesham Jaafar, Bahraini human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja, Jordanian journalist Tayseer Al-Najaar, Egyptian human rights defender Malek Adli, and Syrian Computer Engineer Bassel Khartabil,  were the prisoners of the month for the campaign in the past 16 months.

Members of the "Their freedom is their right" campaign:

- Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)

- Maharat Foundation

- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)

- Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

- Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

- MARCH

- Social Media Exchange (SMEX)

- Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

- Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

- I'lam Arab Center for Media Freedom Development and Research

- Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)

Nabeel Rajab Profile

Name: Nabeel Rajab

Profession: Human rights defender

Age: 52-years-old, born on 01 September 1964

Nationality: Bahraini

Status: Detained since 13 June 2016, charged with damaging the reputation of Bahrain

 What you can do:

 1. You can send an e-mail to the Office of His Royal Highness the Prime Minister of Bahrain email: info@khalifabinsalman.com or call the numbers: tel: +973 17200000 to 17200000, calling for Prime Minister to release human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.

2. You can write to the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs in Bahrain at the following address: PO Box 450, Manama, Diplomatic Area, Bahrain, or call the numbers: +973 17513000 - Fax: +973 17536343, or contact the Ministry of Justice through the page: http://www.moj.gov.bh/default76a7.html?action=category&ID=159 calling on the Ministry of Justice to release human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.

3 - Send an email to the Shura Council at e-mail: info@shura.gov.bh demanding the release of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.

4. Send an email to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders at: action@ohchr.org-urgent

5. Share and post pictures and information on Nabeel Rajab