FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 17, 2012 — The Washington, DC-based Bahrain Coordinating Committee strongly condemns the prison sentence of three years on charges of illegal gathering imposed on Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. The group condemns all forms of repression, and calls on the government and its agents to respect the universal human right of peaceful freedom of expression, along with other basic human rights.
On August 16, 2012, the Lower Criminal Court in Manama, Bahrain sentenced Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, to three years in prison for participating in “illegal protests.” In Bahrain, a protest is illegal if it is not officially permitted by the government, and all opposition protests have been deemed “unauthorized” in recent months. The court also alleged that Rajab incited attacks against security forces. Rajab will appeal the decision.
The U.S. State Department also condemned the trial and sentence of Nabeel Rajab yesterday.
Thirteen other political dissidents, imprisoned on charges passed down by military courts during the government crackdowns on protests in 2011, remain behind bars while they wait for their sentences to be re-tried in civilian courts, per the BICI recommendations made to the government of Bahrain. Those trials were postponed until September 2012.
The government of the United States has called on the government of Bahrain to release them and anyone else detained for expressing his or her personal beliefs without violence in the Gulf nation.
About the Bahrain Coordinating Committee
The Bahrain Coordinating Committee is a Washington, DC-based grassroots movement that works to obtain U.S. support for democracy and human rights reforms in Bahrain. More information can be found online at http://bahraincoordinatingcommittee.org
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U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland addressed questions regarding the sentencing of Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain today during a press briefing. She asserted that the State Department had urged the government not to proceed with the trial of Nabeel Rajab, and that they would prefer the sentence related to illegal gathering to be “vacated.”
“This is an inappropriate case to begin with,” stated Ms. Nuland. She also stated that she believed the Embassy had been in contact with Bahraini authorities today.
“….we’ve long made clear that it’s critical for all governments, including Bahrain, to respect freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, so we are deeply troubled by the sentencing today of Nabeel Rajab to three years in prison on charges of illegally gathering. We believe that all people have a fundamental freedom to participate in civil acts of peaceful disobedience, and we call on the Government of Bahrain to take steps to build confidence across Bahraini society and to begin a really meaningful dialogue with the political opposition and civil society, because actions like this sentencing today only serve to further divide Bahraini society.”
Another sentence is pending, regarding the activist’s Twitter messages.
17 Senators and Members of Congress call for the release of Nabeel Rajab and all Bahrainis detained for crimes related to freedom of expression
August 10, 2012
His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa AI-Khalifa
The Amiri Court, Riffa Palace
P.O. Box 555
Your Royal Highness,
We write to express our concern regarding Nabeel Rajab and other Bahrainis who have been prosecuted for crimes related to freedom of expression. We understand Mr. Rajab was imprisoned for calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister via Twitter, an Internet-messaging program. We respectfully request that you use your authority to order Mr. Rajab’s release under the universal principle that all citizens should have the right to peacefully express disagreement with their government.
Reports indicate many Bahrainis have been imprisoned for peaceful political activities since the start of pro-democracy demonstrations in February 2011. According to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), the National Safety Courts convicted approximately 300 people for exercising their right to free expression and peaceful assembly. Since Your Excellency’s endorsement of the BICI report and its recommendations, Bahraini officials have repeatedly stated that individuals prosecuted for political speech would be released, and that no one would face prosecution for exercising these rights.
We recognize that the Bahraini government has taken positive steps to implement certain BICI recommendations. These steps represent important progress. However, recent charges against Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, run counter to the government’s assurances that individuals will not be prosecuted for peaceful political speech. Bahraini authorities have prosecuted Mr. Rajab five separate times, and in each case the charges appear to have been based on peaceful dissent and peaceful protests. Mr. Rajab was sentenced to three months in prison after “tweeting” that the Prime Minister should resign.
Mr. Rajab is also facing three other active prosecutions related to “illegal gatherings;” however, reports indicate prosecutors have produced no evidence that the protests at issue were violent or threatened violence.
In sum, we remain very concerned about the ongoing prosecution of peaceful opposition activists such as Nabeel Rajab for taking part in activities protected by international law and the Bahraini Constitution, notwithstanding Your Excellency’s acceptance of the BICI recommendations and the government’s reassurances that it does not conduct political prosecutions. We therefore respectfully urge the government to unconditionally and immediately release all Bahrainis being held for crimes related to freedom of expression.
Keith Ellison, Member of Congress
Patrick Leahy, United States Senator
John Conyers, Member of Congress
Ron Wyden, United States Senator
Raul Grijalva, Member of Congress
Alcee Hastings, Member of Congress
Rush Holt, Member of Congress
Michael Honda, Member of Congress
Hank Johnson, Member of Congress
Barbara Lee, Member of Congress
Zoe Lofgren, Member of Congress
James P. McGovern, Member of Congress
James P. Moran, Member of Congress
John Olver, Member of Congress
Jared Polis, Member of Congress
Charles Rangel, Member of Congress
Jan Schakowsky, Member of Congress
Bahrain is putting the cart before the horse with its latest attempts at so-called social reconciliation
The government of Bahrain announced last week that they would provide the equivalent of $500,000 US to non-governmental organizations that develop ” social reconciliation” programs. The Orwellian twist is that this latest effort joins previous initiatives aimed at Bahrainis — primarily at children and young people in school and camp settings — to attempt to influence them to “forgive and forget” past abuses and transgressions by the regime. This, while Bahraini forces continue to tear gas and shoot birdshot pellets at its citizens, and people who have been tortured, innocent of wrongdoing, still languish in Bahraini prisons, including Abdulhadi Alkhawaja.
In addition to the the deaths and injuries related to police brutality, dozens of women in Bahrain have miscarried their unborn children because of excessive exposure to tear gas.
Perhaps this money might be better spent on reforming the regime’s security and police forces. Oh, right, they tried that. Efforts in that direction seem to be fruitless. The regime’s forces are as vicious as ever.
Royalists in Bahrain label any person who supports the opposition, democracy, and human rights as a “terrorist” and anyone who attempts to bring light to these injustices as an instigator of violence. The lion’s share of violence, however, is coming from the regime, as numerous, reputable journalists, human rights organizations, and witnesses have reported again and again.
Evidently “social reconciliation” in Bahrain does not involve protecting the human right freedom of speech. At time of this announcement, the government banned all demonstrations and marches and imprisoned one of the nation’s foremost civil rights leaders, Nabeel Rajab, for speaking his mind on Twitter.
While Bahrain continues to imprison political prisoners…arrest, beat, and torture citizens for speaking their mind…tear-gassing villages…blinding and maiming children and adults with birdshot….any discussion of “reconciliation” is premature.
After all, we are not talking about a parking ticket here. There have been hundreds of documented cases of human rights abuses, including torture and loss of life. People have disappeared who are still not accounted for. People have lost their jobs because of their beliefs. Mosques, hundreds of years old, have been destroyed.
What kind of reconciliation was Bahrain seeking when they shot a tear gas canister into Zainab Alkhawaja’s leg at close range on June 27? What kind of reconciliation were they seeking when they shot four-year-old Ahmed Alneham with buckshot, maiming him for life, while his father begged them to stop?
Actions speak louder than words. Peace is impossible without freedom. Reforms first — then reconciliation.
Witness Bahrain interviewed human rights activist and Bahrain Center for Human Rights President Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain yesterday (July 9) just before he was taken to jail for a three-month sentence related to an update he posted on Twitter.
In the video, Rajab states: “I will not stop and I’m teaching people not to stop. If everybody will keep quiet after putting them in jail, then it’s a disaster. We should challenge that. We should be willing to pay the price for the struggle for the freedom that we fight for. And this is the price.”
The Bahrain Coordinating Committee supports the universal right to freedom of expression and calls for the immediate release of Nabeel Rajab.
- Bahrain Activist Jailed for a Tweet (theatlanticwire.com)
- Jail for Bahrain protest leader over tweet (aljazeera.com)
- Bahrain: Rights Activist Jailed for ‘Insulting’ Tweets (hrw.org)
There was good and bad news out of Bahrain today.
On the good news end of things, the human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was released from prison today after being detained on June 6 for comments he made on social media. However, the bad news is he still faces charges on several counts associated with what Americans would consider expressions of free speech.
The government of Bahrain announced it would present compensation in the U.S. equivalent of $2.6 million dollars to the families of 17 victims killed by police, and charged three members of its police force with murder in connection with deaths during the crackdowns. However, the bad news is that more than 50 people have been killed, and the violence against Bahrain residents continues. The latest fatality is an 18-month old boy who lost his life after exposure to lethal quantities of tear gas that was fired around his home.
Human rights activist Zainab Al Khawaja, also known as @AngryArabiya on Twitter and the daughter of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, was targeted and shot with a projectile by Bahraini police today and sustained an injury to her leg that required her hospitalization.
Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Human Center for Human Rights, was arrested once again, yesterday, and remanded to jail for seven days, on
unspecified charges related to Twitter updates he posted. Bahrain officials said they had received complaints about negative comments he allegedly made on social media sites about the residents of Muharraq.
Rajab alleges that the arrest was prompted by his Tuesday appearance, with Matar Matar, on the Al-Jazeera program, The Stream.
Fahad Albinali, media spokesperson at the Information Affairs Authority, refuted that anyone would be prosecuted for their statements on the program:
Subsequent to receiving the summons to appear, Rajab shared his theories of what circumstances led to the investigation:
Free Hour, a program of Alhurra TV, an Arabic-language U.S. television station, will feature an interview with Maryam Al-Khawaja and Matar Matar this afternoon at 20:00 GMT. The second half of the hour long program will be devoted to the interview. The program may be watched live at http://www.alhurra.com/ The second half of the program will be devoted to the interview.
Maryam Al-Khawaja (Twitter: @maryamalkhawaja)is a human rights activist and the daughter of imprisoned human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. She is also the Vice President for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and the head of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, and is visiting Washington, DC to speak with congressional legislators and speak with reporters at NPR and other media outlets.
Matar Matar (Twitter: @matar_matar) was featured on Al-Jazeera’s The Stream Tuesday, along with activist and Bahrain Center for Human Rights director Nabeel Rajab. Matar Matar is a former member of the Bahrain parliament, and now works on behalf of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, Bahrain’s leading political party. Al Wefaq has been a prominent voice in Bahrain’s opposition movement.
The host for the program will be Hussein Jradi (on Twitter @
Alhurra TV is operated by Middle East Broadcasting Networks, a nonprofit organization financed through a grant from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent federal agency funded by the U.S. Congress.
Bahrainis gathered yesterday to demonstrate their support for Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Gulf Center for Human Rights. Mr. Rajab was recently released from prison on bail for posting Twitter updates the government said were illegal. The participants held up copies of Mr. Rajab’s tweets. One of the tweets deemed illegal by the government showed a picture of Ali Issa Saqr who had been tortured and killed while imprisoned. Mr. Rajab’s next hearing has been scheduled for June 17
The Bahrain Coordinating Committee lends its full support for Nabeel Rajab and for his right to free political expression, and submits that all charges against him should be dismissed.
- Nabeel Rajab Released On Bail; New Hearing Scheduled for June 17 (bahraincoordinatingcommittee.org)
- Nabeel Rajab: The struggle continues in Bahrain (advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org)
- Bahrain Arrests Human Rights Activist Nabeel Rajab (eurasiareview.com)
- Out of Jail, Bahraini Activists Nabeel Rajab and Zainab Alkhawaja Urge End to U.S.-Backed Crackdown (democracynow.org)
- Bahraini rights activist released on bail (edition.cnn.com)