Yesterday, Wednesday 25th of October 2017 SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights received reports from reliable sources regarding the situation of prominent Bahraini Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab who is the co-founder and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), founding Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and a member of the Middle East advisory committee at Human Rights Watch.
Rajab has been one of the country’s most vocal human rights defenders, denouncing human rights violations within Jau Central Prison the country’s largest long-term male detention facility, and denouncing Bahrain’s participation to the bombings of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
Detained since June 13, 2016, Nabeel Rajab has been in arbitrary, solitary and pre-trial detention, in spite of his deteriorating health conditions. Only on July 10, 2017, Bahrain’s Lower Criminal Court handed down a two years’ prison sentence against Rajab for “deliberately spreading false information and malicious rumors with the aim of discrediting the State”, under charges of (Article 134 of the Penal Code), and for which he was facing up to three years in prison. This was related to three televised interviews he made in 2015 and 2016 in which he exposed Bahrain’s poor human rights record.
“Imprisoning Nabeel Rajab simply for sharing his opinion is a flagrant violation of human rights, and an alarming sign that the Bahraini authorities will go to any length to silence criticism,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General in a previous AMNESTY statement in July 2017.
Moreover, Rajab, in the so-called “Twitter case”, is still being accused of “insulting a statutory body” (Article 216 of the Penal Code), “disseminating false rumors in time of war” (Article 133) and “offending a foreign country [Saudi Arabia]” (Article 215), which carries up to 15 years in prison. Those charges are related to tweets he posted denouncing the torture of detainees in Bahrain’s Central Prison “Jau” and the human rights violations perpetrated by the Saudi-Arabia led coalition air strikes in Yemen. The next hearing in this case is scheduled on Nov 8 for lawyers to submit final arguments.
Nabeel Rajab was held in solitary confinement for more than nine months until he was admitted to the Al-Qalaa Interior Ministry hospital; he was suffering from complications following a vital surgery performed in early April in Bahrain Defence Force hospital for he was transferred back to police custody just a day later, before having recovered from his surgery, where his health deteriorated significantly.
Reports says now that Rajab has been transferred yesterday Wednesday 25th of October to Jau Prison from the hospital and mistreated upon reception. He is now kept in the very same cell in which he spent his previous two-year sentence.
“After being transferred from hospital to prison, my father Nabeel Rajab was mistreated/abused by guards and they forcibly shaved his head” said his son, Adam Nabeel Rajab on his Twitter account.
Bahrain Center for Human Rights tweeted saying: ” Yesterday Rajab was subjected to humiliating and degrading body searches by guards from the Jau prison who subsequently confiscated some of his personal belongings, including his books and clothes. Prison officials reportedly forcibly shaved his head and used this opportunity to humiliate him”. They added: ” We are concerned that some of these actions may have been retaliations for the comments Rajab posted on Twitter related to the allegations of torture in Jau prison in 2015. Allegations that have been found credible by many international NGO’s and the UN’s Committee Against Torture in its consideration of Bahrain six months ago.”
Family reported that Rajab is told he can read only one book per month from now on and they were informed that they are not allowed a visit to see him until mid-December.
This is happening at a time when Bahrain is witnessing a serious deterioration of the human rights situation, especially after the total shut down of freedoms space paving the way for a series of local legislations that have been introduced in order to silence any voices of opposition and criticism, such as: The Terrorism Law, the Military Justice Law.
In early 2017, the Government of Bahrain intensified restrictions on inmates at Jau Prison, particularly targeting political prisoners and prisoners of conscience for increased abuse. Prison officials subjected the remaining eleven members of the “Bahrain 13” to severe deprivation of medical care.
According to documented statistics, more than 12,000 Bahraini citizens have been subjected to arbitrary detention since 2011, including more than 4,000 victims of torture and ill-treatment, 968 arbitrarily detained children, 330 women (currently 12 women in prison). Since 2011, Bahrain has also witnessed more than 400 cases of revoking citizenships and nationalities as well as more than 4997 injuries due to the violent repression of peaceful assemblages.
The deterioration of prison conditions in Bahrain is the other face of arbitrary detention, where conditions of prisoners in rehabilitation centers do not meet with Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and is providing a fertile environment for torture and ill-treatment to extract confessions on one hand; and on the other hand to revenge from opposition crowds. 21 methods of torture and ill-treatment are used on 4,000 political prisoners.
The transformation of Bahraini prisons into a fertile environment for torture and ill-treatment deliberately deprives detainees and prisoners of a number of rights as a means of reprisal and pressure.
We know that Nabeel Rajab has been persecuted for years because he denounces human rights abuses. We once again call on the Bahraini authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally and urge them to stop repressing freedom of expression and to allow all citizens to exercise their right to express themselves peacefully.
Background information on Nabeel Rajab as put by the International federation for Human Rights (FIDH)in an earlier issued statement:
- On July 9, 2012, Rajab was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for allegedly libeling the residents of Al Muharraq via several tweets posted on his twitter account. On August 23, 2012, he was acquitted by the Higher Appeal Court.
- On August 16, 2012, the Lower Criminal Court sentenced Rajab to three years of imprisonment in relation to three cases related to his participation in peaceful gatherings in favor of fundamental freedoms and democracy. In December 2012, the Appeals Court reduced the sentence to two years of imprisonment. He was released in May 2014.
- On October 1, 2014, Nabeel Rajab was remanded in detention by the General Directorate of Anti-Corruption and Economic and Electronic Security of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for “insulting a public institution” under Article 216 of the Penal Code. The case related to a tweet he published in September 2014, in which he criticized the military institutions for generating extremist ideologies (the “terrorism tweet” case). On November 2, 2014, the Third Lower Criminal Court ordered his release but barred him from leaving the country.
- On January 20, 2015, the Third Lower Criminal Court sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment on the charges of “insulting public institutions and the army”, under Article 216 of the Penal Code.
- In 2015, two other criminal charges were brought against Rajab. On February 26, 2015, he was summoned for investigations for charges of “inciting hatred towards the regime” in relation to a speech he made in February 2011 during a funeral (the “funeral speech case”). To date, the police investigation is ongoing.
- In addition, on April 2, 2015, Rajab was again arrested, sent to the General Directorate of Anti-Corruption and Economic and Electronic Security, and placed in detention in solitary confinement in Isa Town Police Station. On April 3, 2015, he was interrogated by the CID regarding two new charges brought against him under criminal case No. 2015/38288. The first charge was “insulting a statutory body”, referring to the Ministry of Interior in relation to tweets he posted denouncing the torture of detainees at Jaw Prison (the “Jaw torture tweets” case). The second charge was “disseminating false rumors in time of war”, in relation to tweets he published about the Saudi-Arabia led coalition air strikes in Yemen (the “Yemen tweets” case). If sentenced on the second charge, Rajab could be facing up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Rajab refused to sign the police minutes of the investigations. On April 4, 2015, the Public Prosecution ordered seven days’ detention pending investigation.
- On April 11, 2015, the Prosecution ordered an additional fifteen days in detention for Rajab. On April 26, 2015, the Public Prosecution officially charged Rajab under Articles 133 and 216, and subsequently extended his detention for an additional fifteen days. On May 11, the Bahraini High Court extended Rajab ́s preventive detention for 15 days.
- On May 14, 2015, the Bahrain Criminal Court of Appeal upheld the six-month prison sentence (the “terrorism tweet” case).
- On July 13, 2015, the King of Bahrain Hamad Bin Issa Al-Khalifa ordered through Royal Pardon the release of Nabeel Rajab for health reasons. Rajab had already served three of the six months’ jail sentence. Moreover, on the same date, the Public Prosecution imposed a travel ban against Rajab in relation to criminal case No. 2015/38288 related to the Jaw torture and Yemen tweets cases.
- In the morning of June 13, 2016, police forces reportedly led by the Cybercrime Unit arrested Nabeel Rajab, after raiding his house and seizing a number of electronic devices. In the afternoon, he was able to contact his wife by phone, and reported being detained at East Riffa police station.
- On June 14, he was transferred to the Public Prosecution, which remanded him in custody for seven days, on accusations of “publishing and broadcasting false news that undermine the prestige of the State” under Article 134 of the Penal Code .
- On June 21, 2016, Nabeel Rajab appeared before the Public Prosecution, which remanded him in custody for eight additional days.
- On June 28, 2016, he was transferred from police custody to the Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) Hospital due to unprecedented heart problems. On the same day, he was examined by a doctor, and was transferred back to West Riffa police station.
- On July 12, during the hearing, the judge dismissed the request for release filed by Rajab’s lawyers and the hearing was postponed to August 2.
- On August 2, 2016, the High Criminal Court decided to postpone the trial to September 5 without justification.
- On September 4, Rajab was summoned and questioned by CID officials. He was denied access to a lawyer on this occasion.
- On September 5, 2016, the Public Prosecution announced that additional charges had been brought against Nabeel Rajab, for deliberately disseminating “false news and information and tendentious rumors that undermine the kingdom’s prestige and stature”, in relation to a letter published in the New York Times on September 4, 2016 , describing his judicial harassment and arbitrary detention. If convicted, this could add one year to his final sentence. In total, he now faces up to 16 years in prison. Therefore, the court decided to postpone once again the next hearing in his trial to October 6, 2016.
- On October 3, 2016, Nabeel Rajab underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder as a consequence of his poor detention conditions.
- On October 6, 2016, the High Criminal Court decided after a five minutes hearing to postpone the trial to October 31, without providing any justification. Before the hearing, Rajab’s lawyers asked the Court a copy of his medical reports after the Ministry of Interior and the Public Prosecution failed to provide them, in clear violation of Rajab’s right to be informed of his own health condition.
- Once more on October 31, 2016, the Fourth High Criminal Court postponed the trial until December 15 in order to obtain a technical expert from the Cyber-Crime Unit to determine who runs Rajab’s twitter account. Rajab arrived at the court right before the hearing, and was taken out immediately after the Judge made his pronouncements, while Rajab’s lawyers were still making applications.
- On December 15, 2016, after a fifteen minutes hearing during which Nabeel Rajab was not allowed to speak, the Fourth High Criminal Court postponed the verdict until December 28, 2016 and refused to release him.
- On December 21, 2016, the Cybercrime Unit of the Ministry of Interior took Nabeel Rajab out of custody for interrogation following the publication of a letter  quoting him in French newspaper Le Monde on December 19, 2016. The Cybercrime Unit is reportedly accusing Rajab of using the article to “spread false information and tendentious rumors insulting Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States and harming their relations”. Further investigations on those publications are underway.
- On December 28, 2016, Manama’s Fifth High Criminal Court acceded to an application for Nabeel Rajab’s temporary release following a failure to give any basis or any sufficient evidence of a link between him and the Twitter account with respect to the Yemeni and Jaw prison tweets.
- Then Rajab was taken to the CID for temporary release. However, he was re-arrested later on the same day and referred to the Public Prosecution in relation to an investigation into televised interviews dating from 2014, which commenced in mid-June 2016.
- On December 28, 2016, the Public Prosecution ordered the pre-trial detention for seven days of Nabeel Rajab, pending investigation into televised interviews dating back to 2014. These interviews with television networks Lua Lua Channel, Al Etijah TV and Al-Alam News Network concerned the human rights situation in Bahrain. Within this case, Nabeel Rajab is being prosecuted on charge of “deliberately spreading false information and malicious rumors with the aim of discrediting the State” (Article 134 of the Penal Code) , which carries up to three years in prison.
- On January 5, 2017, the Public Prosecution renewed Nabeel Rajab’s pre-trial detention for a further 15 days, pending investigation.
- On April 5, 2017, Nabeel Rajab underwent surgery for bleeding ulcers at Manama’s military hospital. His family was denied the right to visit him while in hospital. Only two days after the surgery, Rajab was sent back to West Riffa police station where he remained in solitary confinement most of the time.
- On April 8, 2017, Rajab was rushed to the police hospital in an ambulance because of an infected wound that followed the operation. Until 25th of October, while Nabeel Rajab was still recovering from his medical condition he was transferred to Jau Prison under waves of mistreatment.
- Since January 2017, the “Twitter case” case have been endlessly postponed.
A timeline of harassment of Nabeel Rajab is available and regularly updated on BCHR website: http://bahrainrights.org/en/updates-arrest-and-detention-bchrs-president-nabeel-rajab?_ga=2.212874194.755018715.1494506593-1099758628.1494506593