10 May 2012

ARTICLE 19 condemns the arrest of human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, who has been remanded in custody in Bahrain for a week following a court hearing on Sunday 6 May. He was detained on Saturday.

The president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights was arrested following his arrival at Manama's airport on May 5 on charges of inciting protests by using social networking websites. He also faces an investigation into “insulting statutory bodies”, according to the Bahrain Centre of Human Rights (BCHR). He will remain in custody for seven days whilst an investigation takes place.

Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, said: “We are concerned and disappointed about the action taken against Nabeel Rajab. We are seeing time and time against, breaches against individuals and groups who defend human rights and advocate free speech. Worldwide we expect the judiciary system to be fair and impartial and not used to silence the right of individuals to express their opinions about democracy and justice.

“Nabeel should be released immediately from these trumped up charges and allegations, along with prisoner of conscience Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, on his 93rd day on hunger strike, and the many other prisoners who are held due to their attempts to document and report abuse and human rights violations in Bahrain.”

Nabeel Rajab, a leading activist in Bahrain has organised several protests and was a vociferous opponent of the decision to hold the Grand Prix in Bahrain in April. On Sunday evening hundreds of supporters gathered outside Mr Rajab’s home in Bani Jamra, west of Manama, to demand his release. He has in excess of 140,000 followers on Twitter.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was convicted in June 2011 by a military court. He was given a life sentence on charges of ‘organising and managing a terrorist organisation’, ‘attempt to overthrow the Government by force and in liaison with a terrorist organisation working for a foreign country’ and the ‘collection of money for a terrorist group.’ Mr Khawaja began a much-publicised hunger strike on 8 February in protest at the life sentence. Finally, after mounting international pressure, the highest court in Bahrain ruled on Monday, May 1, that Khawaja and 19 other activists will be retried in a civilian court.

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