Leading Bahrain Activist Nabeel Rajab Reportedly Arrested
Washington, DC – Human Rights First said that the reported arrest of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab today is another alarming setback to hopes for progress towards an inclusive settlement to the country’s political crisis. The organization said that the arrest is the latest in a string of actions that should give Washington pause as it considers whether to lift restrictions on sending arms to the kingdom. Rajab’s colleagues have reported that he was arrested by Bahraini authorities at his home today.
“This is a brazen move to openly target a dissident leader at a time when the Bahraini government is pushing to have remaining U.S. arms restrictions to the kingdom lifted and preparing to host a major Formula 1 race in two weeks. The regime has made clear that muted criticism from the U.S. and elsewhere doesn't stop it from targeting its human rights leaders. Washington should impose consequences for these violations,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley.
The basis for Rajab’s arrest are not yet clear. At 4:00 pm local time a tweet from Rajab’s account read, “The special forces are all around my house and they want me to go out." He had been released pending an appeal on a six-month prison sentence he was given in January of this year for a tweet deemed critical of the government. His appeal verdict was scheduled for April 15.
Rajab is the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and is known internationally for his peaceful human rights work. He spent two years in prison from mid- 2012 to mid-2014 for his activism, and he has been regularly targeted by the Bahriani government since the large scale democracy protests broke out in the country in early 2011.
In recent months, Bahrain has also jailed Ali Salman, the leader of the main opposition group Al Wefaq, and the prospects for a political settlement seem remote.
“Bahrain should realize that silencing peaceful dissent is a disastrous, self-defeating policy in the fight against terrorism. Arresting Nabeel does nothing to secure a peaceful future for the country, and makes it harder for activist leaders to persuade anyone that nonviolent protest will achieve reform,” said Dooley.
For more information or to speak with Dooley, contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-845-5269.