Bahrain: Nabeel Rajab freed from prison to serve rest of sentence at home
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the news that prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, has been freed from prison in Bahrain. Rajab has been in jail since 13 June 2016 serving a five-year sentence for human rights tweets, and has already served a two-year sentence for media interviews about human rights violations in Bahrain. Rajab, the Founding Director of GCHR and President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), was freed on 09 June 2020 to serve the remaining three years of his sentence at home under a provision of the law allowing non-custodial sentences. He will not be allowed to get involved in any human rights activities during this period of time.
“It’s the happiest day of 2020 to see Nabeel reunited with his family. We just want the release of Abdulhadi and all our detained colleagues across the MENA region,” said Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR’s Executive Director., mentioning GCHR’s other Founding Director Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who remains in prison serving a life-sentence for his human rights activities.
On 31 December 2018, the Court of Cassation in Bahrain upheld Rajab’s five-year prison sentence for peaceful comments on his Twitter account about civilian deaths in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, and allegations of torture in Jaw prison. He was charged with “spreading false rumours in time of war,” “insulting public authorities,” and “insulting a foreign country.”
Rajab was previously sentenced to two years in prison in 2017 on charges of “publishing and broadcasting false news that undermines the prestige of the state” during TV interviews he gave in 2015 and 2016 in which he stated the well-documented fact that Bahraini authorities bar reporters and human rights workers from entering the country.
Rajab also faced additional charges in violation of his right to free expression, including of “spreading false news and statements and malicious rumors that undermine the prestige of the state” in relation to letters published in The New York Times and Le Monde. Thus, he faces the difficult decision to remain silent about human rights violations or risk going back to prison.
GCHR hopes that Rajab will remain safe at home with his family. GCHR is also concerned about the safety and well-being of other detained human rights defenders in Bahrain such as Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and Naji Fateel, whose already-poor health is at risk in prison, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when the disease can easily spread in prison.
GCHR calls on the Bahraini authorities to:
- Overturn the sentence against Nabeel Rajab, and allow him to work freely without conditions;
- Free all human rights defenders in Bahrain, including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and Naji Fateel, who are detained in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly;
- Ensure that all prisoners are treated in line with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, including by ensuring proper hygiene in prison and other protective measures against COVID-19; and
- Allow human rights defenders to carry out their work in Bahrain without fear of reprisals.