56 Members of the European Parliament (MEP) called for the immediate release of Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. In the statement, the MEPs urged the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Member States “to publicly condemn the ongoing violations of the basic human rights of free expression in Bahrain, and call for the release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and other human rights defenders targeted in Bahrain.”

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We, the undersigned Members of the European Parliament, call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab — President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and member of the Human Rights Watch’s Advisory Board.

We believe that his arrest, interrogation and arbitrary detention in relation to an offending tweet are meant as a form of reprisal against Mr. Rajab for his recent advocacy on behalf of human rights in Bahrain. His advocacy recently included speaking before the Human Rights Subcommittee (DROI) of the European Parliament, and participating in the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Less than 24 hours after completing his human rights advocacy mission in Europe, the Bahraini government summoned Mr. Rajab to the Central Investigations Directorate’s (CID) Cyber Crimes Unit for interrogation, whereupon security forces arrested and interrogated him for a number of hours in relation to a tweet he published while abroad. After 19 days in pre-trial detention, Mr. Rajab’s court proceedings began to hear opening arguments on 19 October. The court postponed any decision or sentencing until Wednesday 29 October, and has denied Mr. Rajab release on bail.

Given the Bahrain government’s history of targeted reprisals of arbitrary detention and torture against Mr. Rajab, including a two-year arbitrary detention completed in May 2014, we are deeply concerned that Mr. Rajab’s renewed arbitrary detention in relation to his free expression is likewise meant as a form of reprisal for his human rights advocacy at EU and UN levels.

In addition to the recent detention of Mr. Rajab, the Bahraini government has also reignited its campaign against the Bahraini-Danish citizens and human rights defenders of the al-Khawaja family. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja continues to serve his arbitrary life sentence in Bahrain after peacefully calling for reforms during the 2011 popular protest movement in the country. His daughter Zainab al-Khawaja — herself a prominent human rights activist who is currently eight months pregnant — now faces fresh charges of insulting the king of Bahrain, a crime that can carry a sentence of seven years imprisonment and a fine up to BD 10,000 (€20,900). Her trial is set to resume on Thursday 20 October.

In February of this year, the European Parliament unanimously passed an Urgency Resolution recognizing that “the Bahraini authorities continue to violate and restrict the rights […] of individuals to peaceful protest, freedom of expression and digital freedom, [and that] human rights activists face ongoing systematic targeting, harassment and detention.” The Resolution also called for “the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, political activists, journalists, human rights defenders and peaceful protesters, including Nabeel Rajab […]”.

We therefore urge the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Member States to publicly condemn the ongoing violations of the basic human rights of free expression in Bahrain, and call for the release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and other human rights defenders targeted in Bahrain. We further hope that Member States will continue to call on the Government of Bahrain to ensure that all civil society organizations and human rights defenders in the kingdom are able to conduct their work without fear of retaliation or reprisal. Finally, we again urge the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs to stress the European Parliament’s calls for imposing targeted restrictive measures (visa bans and asset freezes) against those individuals responsible for, and involved in, the human rights abuses (as documented by the BICI report or by the Special Procedures of the United Nations).

Signatories (in alphabetical order)

Ms. Martina Anderson, GUE, Ireland

Ms. Margrete Auken, Greens, Denmark

Mr. Petras Austrevicius, ALDE, Lithuania

Mr. Brando Benifei, S&D, Italy

Ms. Lynn Boylan, GUE, Ireland

Mr. Paul Brannen, S&D, UK

Mr. Klaus Buchner, Greens, Germany

Mr. Nicola Caputo, S&D, Italy

Mr. Matt Carthy, GUE, Ireland

Mr. Fabio Massimo Castaldo, EFD, Italy

Ms. Nessa Childers, S&D, Ireland

Ms. Bodil Ceballos, Greens, Sweden

Mr. Ignazio Corrao, EFD, Italy

Mr. Javier Couso Permuy, GUE, Spain

Mr. Dennis De Jong, GUE, The Netherlands

Ms. Anneliese Dodds, S&D, UK

Ms. Jill Evans, Greens, UK

Mr. Juan Fernando López Aguilar, S&D, Spain

Ms. Ana Gomes, S&D, Portugal

Mr. Enrique Guerrero, S&D, Spain

Ms. Heidi Hautala, Greens, Finland

Ms. Maria Heubuch, Greens, Germany

Mr. Richard Howitt, S&D, UK

Ms. Rina Ronja Kari, GUE, Denmark

Ms. Jude Kirton-Darling, S&D, UK

Mr. Jeppe Kofod, S&D, Denmark

Ms. Jean Lambert, Greens, UK

Ms. Barbara Lochbihler, Greens, Germany

Ms. Linda McAvan, S&D, UK

Mr. António Marinho e Pinto, ALDE, Portugal

Mr. Edouard Martin, S&D, France

Ms. Barbara Matera, EPP, Italy

Mr. Emmanuel Maurel, S&D, France

Mr. Claude Moraes, S&D, UK

Ms. Angelika Niebler, EPP, Germany

Ms. Liadh Ní Ríada, GUE, Ireland

Mr. Pier Antonio Panzeri, S&D, Italy

Ms. Sirpa Pietikäinen, EPP, Finland

Mr. Gianni Pittella, S&D, Italy

Mr. Gutiérrez Prieto, S&D, Spain

Ms. Sofia Sakorafa, GUE, Greece

Ms. Judith Sargentini, Greens, The Netherlands

Ms. Marietje Schaake, ALDE, The Netherlands

Ms. Christel Schaldemose, S&D, Denmark

Mr. Alyn Smith, Greens, UK

Mr. Bart Staes, Greens, Belgium

Mr. Keith Taylor, Greens, UK

Mr. Ivo Vajgl, ALDE, Slovenia

Ms. Elena Valenciano, S&D, Spain

Mr. Marco Valli, EFD, Italy

Ms. Julie Ward, S&D, UK

Mr. Bogdan Wenta, EPP, Poland

Currently, 53 Members of the European Parliament support this call.