For Immediate Release: August 16, 2012
Washington, DC – In an astonishing move this morning, the Bahrain authorities sentenced prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab to three years in jail for his part in “illegal gatherings.”
“Even those of us who have followed Bahrain’s violent crackdown on human rights are shocked by today’s move,” said Brian Dooley of Human Rights First. “It’s a breathtakingly bad decision, showing that the regime’s rhetoric about reform and reconciliation is a sham. The charges are patently politically-motivated, and designed to silence him. He has consistently called for protests to be peaceful, and there is no justification for his jailing.”
Rajab is one of the region’s leading human rights figures, with over 168,000 followers on the social network site twitter. He has been in jail for more than a month for criticizing Bahrain’s unelected Prime Minister in a tweet, and today’s verdict means he will be there until 2015. He is the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and he and the BCHR have won several international awards for their work in exposing human rights violations in the country over the last 18 months, including the 2012 Roger Baldwin Medal of Freedom, awarded by Human Rights First, the 2011 Ion Ratui Democracy Award, from the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the 2011 Silbury Prize, from UK parliamentarians.
“This verdict is a clear warning that those who stand up for human rights will be targeted,” said Dooley. “The intimidation of human rights defenders is intensifying. Other leadings activists, including Zainab Al Khawaja and her father, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, remain in detention. The US Government should speak out clearly and unambiguously against today’s sentence and against the campaign of intimidation against human rights defenders. ”
Yesterday, one of Rajab’s colleagues at the BCHR, Saidyousif al-Mahdafdah, told Human Rights First he was briefly detained and beaten after police found a poster of Nabeel Rajab in his car.
“I was with my children and we were stopped at a checkpoint. The police found a banner of Nabeel Rajab and asked who’s this? I told them who is was, and they said ‘ No say this is “Our whore”’ – I refused to say that and they punched me, and took me to a police station where I was forced to sign a pledge without the presence of a lawyer saying I would come immediately to a police station if I were summoned. My arrest was arbitrary and without a warrant from the public prosecution . What hurt me was that the police beat me in front of my two daughters, who are aged two and five. They were crying.”