Reporters Without Borders

Activist Nabeel Rajab cleared of libel but kept in jail on other charges

Activist Nabeel Rajab cleared of libel but kept in jail on other charges

Published on Thursday 23 August 2012.
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A Bahrain appeal court today cleared human rights activist Nabeel Rajab of charges of libelling the citizens of the town of Muharraq on Twitter, his lawyer Mohamed Al-Jishi announced.

Reporters Without Borders notes the decision but points out that Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Gulf Center for Human Rights, has already been in prison for two of the three months to which he was sentenced on July 9.

Furthermore, charges of participating in three illegal demonstrations, for which he received a three-year sentence on 16 August, still stand. His appeal in that case is due to be heard on 10 September.

Many supporters of the activist and representatives of foreign embassies attended today’s hearing. Rajab, who was allowed to speak, criticized the poor prison conditions, saying he was held in solitary confinement and subjected to physical and psychological torture.

Reporters Without Borders urges the Bahraini authorities to withdraw all the charges against him and to release him immediately. The international community must put pressure on the kingdom with this in view.


16.08.2012 - Rights activist Nabeel Rajab given three-year jail sentence

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After several adjournments, Nabeel Rajab, human rights activist and president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was sentenced today to three years’ imprisonment for participating in illegal demonstrations. His lawyer, Mohamed al-Jishi, announced he would appeal against the decision.

Meanwhile, the appeal against his three-month jail term, handed down on July 9 for posting messages on Twitter allegedly libelling the citizens of the town of Muharraq (see below), has been adjourned until 23 August.

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the sentenced imposed on Rajab by the Bahraini justice authorities, and calls for his immediate release and for the charges against him to be dropped.

“The fact that the hearing has been adjourned so many times raises doubts over how seriously the Bahraini court system is treating the case and how committed the authorities are to democratic reform,” the press freedom organization said.

“Once again, we stand alongside the family of Nabeel Rajab and the many voices raised in criticism of the crackdown on dissidents in the country. Pressure on the kingdom must be maintained.”

The human rights activist Said Yousif Almuhafda, a known supporter of Rajab’s, was detained for three hours and beaten at a police checkpoint yesterday, without access to a lawyer or being presented with an arrest warrant. Banners in support of Rajab were confiscated from him.

A day earlier, Rajab’s wife Sumaya published an open letter written on behalf of herself and their children urging the international community, the United Nations and human rights organizations to intercede with the Bahraini authorities to demand his release and an end to the abuses against him and his family, and to allow him to resume his human rights activities as guaranteed under international conventions.

After his sentence was announced, Sumaya Rajab said on Twitter: “The government is using the court system to take revenge on activists and opponents. The verdict against Nabeel proves that the courts are not independent and merely carry out the orders of the government.”


02.08.2012 - Rights activist Nabeel Rajab victimised by justice authorities

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On 5th August, a Bahrain court will hear an appeal by the activist Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, against the conviction and three-month jail sentence imposed on him last month for posting messages on Twitter that were alleged to be libellous.

At the same hearing, the court will consider another case against him for participating in illegal demonstrations, originally due to be heard on 26 September.

Pending the appeal verdict in a few days’ time, Reporters Without Borders deplores the authorities’ harassment of Rajab and expresses concern about the position of human rights campaigners in Bahrain.

“We urge the Bahraini justice authorities to drop the charges against Nabeel Rajab and call for his immediate release,” the press freedom organization said. It condemned the crackdown on dissident voices and called on the international community to step up the pressure on the kingdom.

Rajab was found guilty of libelling the citizens of the town of Muharraq. In his tweets he accused the prime minister – who was visiting the town — of corruption and called on him to resign, saying the people had welcomed him only because they had been offered subsidies.


10.07.2012 - Scandalous verdict sends rights activist back to prison

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Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the latest conviction and three-month sentence imposed on the activist Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, for posting messages on Twitter on 2 June that were alleged to be libellous.

The eagerness with which the authorities have pursued Nabeel Rajab, whose only crime was to express himself freely, is yet another affront to human rights activists,” the press freedom organization said. “The international community must step up its pressure on the kingdom, which is pursuing its crackdown against dissident voices with impunity.

“We urge Bahrain’s judicial authorities to concentrate its efforts on the cases of torture and serious human rights violations of the past few months and to call the perpetrators to account.”

The Fifth Lower Criminal court yesterday found Rajab guilty of libelling the citizens of the town of Muharraq. In his tweets he accused the prime minister – who was visiting the town — of corruption and called on him to resign, saying the people had only welcomed him because they had received subsidies.

A few hours later, hooded police officers entered his home after surrounding it, and took him away by force (click here for video).

Rajab was detained for three weeks in June while the case against him was investigated. According a statement by the public prosecutor, the decision to remand him in custody was made after the citizens of Muharraq accused him of “publicly vilifying Muharraq citizens and questioning their patriotism with disgraceful expressions posted via social networking websites”.

The verdict is particularly harsh. The BCHR website quoted Rajab’s lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi as saying the most severe penalty in libel cases was usually a fine. According to the Reuters news agency, al-Jishi said the judge had specified that the time Rajab had already spent in jail would count towards the sentence. Al-Jish has lodged an appeal, which will be heard on 18 July in the Higher Appeal Court.

At the end of June, the final verdict was given in a case concerning a commentary he had posted on Twitter, in which he was alleged to have “insulted the statutory bodies”. He was ordered to pay a fine of 300 dinars (about 650 euros) and a travel ban against him was lifted. Despite this, he was prevented from leaving Bahrain on 6 July on a scheduled trip to a number of countries, including France, for meetings.

Proceedings are still pending against Rajab in two cases linked to participation in illegal demonstrations.

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