20 May 2012

DUBAI (Reuters) – A leading Bahraini opposition activist accused of insulting authorities remained in jail on Sunday, despite being granted bail, because he faces a second charge of organising illegal protests, his lawyer said.

Nabeel Rajab is the founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights who led many protests that were part of an on-going uprising led by the Shi’ite Muslim majority against the Sunni ruling Al Khalifa dynasty that rules the Gulf Arab island. “The judge agreed to the request to free him on 300 Bahraini dinar ($800) bail with a travel ban, but he has not been released because he is being detained on another charge,” said Rajab’s lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi.

Authorities, who call opposition activists the lackeys of Shi’ite power Iran, have vowed to “get tougher” on security as talks with them have stalled. Activists say the government wants to find any way of keeping Rajab off the streets.

Bail was granted in the case of “insulting an official authority” which centres on four messages posted on the social media site Twitter that suggested the interior ministry had not carried out proper investigations into civilian deaths.

The second charge – organising illegal demonstrations – could land Rajab with two years in jail, Jishi said last week.


AFP: Bahrain activist says charge over tweets 'vindictive'

16 May 2012

DUBAI — Prominent Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab told a court on Wednesday that a charge that he tweeted insults against the government was "vindictive," as dozens of lawyers turned up to defend him.

"The charge against me is vindictive and is due to my rights activism," Rajab told a judge at Manama's Minor Criminal Court, insisting the decision to arrest and try him was political, according to witnesses.

"I only practiced my right to free expression. I did not commit a crime. The decision to arrest me and put me on trial was a political decision," he said.

More than 50 lawyers, both men and women, gathered at the court to defend Rajab, who has been leading protests following a brutal crackdown on Shiite-led demonstrations against the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty in March 2011.

The judge adjourned the trial to Sunday, and ordered Rajab to stay behind bars.

Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), was detained on May 5 for "insulting a statutory body via Twitter". He also faces a trial for taking part in a Manama demonstration three months ago.

The activist has insisted on demonstrating inside Manama, unlike the main Shiite opposition which now stages its protests in Shiite villages, after last year's clampdown on protesters who occupied the capital's Pearl Square for a month. Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Bahraini authorities to drop charges against Rajab.

"The charges against Nabeel Rajab are nothing more than attempts to silence one of the Bahraini government's most prominent critics," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the New York-based watchdog.

"Authorities should immediately drop these charges and release him," he said in a statement.

Despite being a veteran critic of authorities in the Gulf kingdom, Rajab has been spared imprisonment in the wide wave of arrests that targeted activists after security forces quelled the Arab Spring-inspired uprising, possibly for his international exposure and links with rights groups.

Another activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is the former head of the BCHR, has been on a hunger strike in prison since February 8. He faces a life sentence among other leading opposition activists.

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Also read: Bahrain Authorities Continue to Detain, Target and Harass Human Rights Defenders