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HRW: Nabeel Rajab Faces up to 12 Years in Prison for Criticizing War on Yemen

2016-07-27 - 7:29 p

Bahrain Mirror: The Prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab faces up to 12 years in prison for criticizing the Saudi Arabia-led military operations in Yemen, Human Rights Watch said today.

The organization said in a statement on Wednesday (July 27, 2016) that the charges against Nabeel Rajab constitute "a serious violation of his right to freedom of expression." The conditions of his detention also appear to amount to arbitrary punishment. He was in solitary confinement for more than two weeks after his arrest and denied compassionate leave to attend a relative's funeral. He faces an additional three years for comments about the Bahrain government's response to prison unrest.

"Unlawful Saudi-led airstrikes bombed markets and hospitals, killing hundreds of civilians, but the person facing prison time is the one who criticized them," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The US and the UK, which have assisted the coalition, have a particular responsibility to insist that Bahrain drop the unlawful charges against Nabeel Rajab and immediately free him."

HRW explained that Rajab's Twitter comments led to his arrest on April 2, 2015. Authorities released him on July 13, 2015, but prosecutors did not close the cases and ordered his re-arrest on June 13, 2016. His trial began on July 12, with the next session scheduled for August 2.

If convicted of spreading "false or malicious news, statements, or rumors," Rajab faces up to 10 years in prison under article 133 of Bahrain's penal code. If convicted of "offending a foreign country [Saudi Arabia]", Rajab faces a maximum two year sentence under article 215 of the penal code. If convicted of "offending national institutions," based on comments about unrest that broke out in Jaw Prison in March 2015, Rajab, faces an additional three-year sentence under article 216 of the penal code

Although it is not possible to verify these images, by June 2016, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International had documented 69 unlawful airstrikes by the coalition, some of which may amount to war crimes, that had killed more than 900 civilians.

Rajab's comments about the unrest in Jaw prison and the authorities' response are consistent with the accounts of four former detainees who, in the aftermath of the unrest, told Human Rights Watch that security forces subjected prisoners to abuse that would appear to amount to torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, indicating that the Interior Ministry Ombudsman said that his office had met with 156 inmates and that it had referred 15 formal complaints to the Special Investigations Unit over incidents of Jaw Prison.

"If the Bahraini authorities don't like criticism of the Saudi-led airstrikes, they should focus their efforts on ensuring that their Gulf allies don't bomb schools and hospitals," said Stork.

Arabic Version


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