For Immediate Release: August 3, 2012
Washington, DC – On Sunday, Aug. 5, leading Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), will return to court for the verdict in his appeal of a three-month prison sentence for criticizing the country’s Prime Minister in a tweet. His comments were about Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah, the uncle of the King of Bahrain and the country’s unelected Prime Minister for nearly 41 years.
On July 9, Rajab was arrested at his home by masked security officers after his June 2 tweet that read, “Khalifa, leave the residents of Al Muharraq, its Sheikhs and its elderly. Everyone knows that you are not popular here, and if it wasn’t for the subsidies, they wouldn’t have gone out to welcome you. When will you step down?”
Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley said, “Despite promise after promise from the Bahrain authorities that people would no longer be prosecuted for peacefully expressing their views, Rajab is in prison for exactly that. The U.S. Government should publicly call on the Bahrain regime to free him immediately and unconditionally and to end the jailing and judicial harassment of human rights defenders.”
Among other prominent human rights defenders targeted by the Bahraini government is Zainab Al Khawaja, who was arrested yesterday, Aug. 2, after an apparently peaceful protest. On June 27, she was shot at close range with a tear gas canister causing a serious injury to her leg. Reports suggest that Al Khawaja, who currently walks with the help of crutches, is now in custody at Isa Town detention center.
“The truth about Bahrain’s commitment to reform is exposed by how it treats human rights defenders like Rajab and Al Khawaja,” said Dooley. “Even Bahrain’s expensive PR firms can’t hide that reality.”
BCHR is one of the most respected human rights NGOs in the region. During the past year, Rajab and the BCHR have won several international awards fortheir exposure of the Bahrain regime’s crackdown following protests for democratic reform that started in February 2011. For example, BCHR is the winner of the 2012 Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty, awarded this year by Human Rights First. BCHR’s Rajab is also the recipient of the 2011 Ion Ratui Democracy Award, presented by the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC.
For more information about Rajab or Al Khawaja, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-370-3323.