Bahrain: Postponement of Nabeel Rajab’s trial for sixth time is blatant harassment
In response to the news today that the Bahraini authorities have postponed the verdict in the case of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, Samah Hadid, Deputy Director of Campaigns at Amnesty International’s Regional office in Beirut said:
“The Bahraini authorities must stop playing games with Nabeel Rajab’s freedom. He has been arrested and released repeatedly over the past five years and has been banned from leaving the country. By postponing his trial for a sixth time today they are cruelly stringing him along as punishment for his peaceful activism. Their refusal to release him from custody in December despite a court order suggests this is part of a deliberate strategy to harass him.
“Instead of flouting his rights to freedom of expression and depriving him of his liberty they should end this campaign of harassment, immediately and unconditionally release him and drop all the charges against him.”
A verdict in a case regarding tweets Nabeel Rajab published in March 2015 alleging torture in Jaw prison, and criticizing the killing of civilians in the Yemen conflict by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, had been due today. This session was postponed until 21 February. He is facing charges including “insulting public authorities”, “insulting a foreign country” and “disseminating false rumours in times of war”. If convicted he could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
On 28 December 2016 a Bahraini court ordered his release but the authorities refused to release him and instead he was immediately re-arrested and taken into custody in relation to another investigation into TV interviews he gave in 2015 and 2016. The Public Prosecution had charged him with publishing and disseminating rumours and false news relating to the internal situation in the country. His trial on these charges began today and was postponed until 8 February.
Nabeel Rajab is also facing separate charges in relation to a piece written in his name in the New York Times.