ADHRB Condemns Repeated Postponement of Nabeel Rajab’s Trial on Free Speech Charges

27 September 2017 – Today, the Bahraini judiciary once again postponed the trial of Nabeel Rajab, who authorities have arbitrarily detained since 13 June 2016. This marks 471 days of detention and more than five postponements for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights president, on charges relating to his Tweets and activism. Rajab has spent much of his detention in solitary confinement and unhygienic conditions that have led to a drastic deterioration of his health and repeated hospitalizations. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain again reiterates the call for Rajab’s immediate release and the lifting of all charges raised against him.

Rajab was previously sentenced to two years in prison and now faces an additional 15 years’ imprisonment in the ongoing trial for comments made on social media. Bahrain based its charges in the previous trial on interviews Rajab gave to the media in which he discussed the kingdom’s restrictions on freedom of the press. The authorities have also threatened to prosecute Rajab over editorials published in the New York Times and Le Monde. The more recent 2017 charges are similar in nature and include spreading “false or malicious news, statements, or rumors,” “offending a foreign country,” (Saudi Arabia), and “offending a statutory body,” based on his criticism of the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen and the prevalence of torture in Bahrain’s prisons. These latest instances of judicial harassment typify the political persecution that Rajab has been subjected to since 2011.

ADHRB’s Executive Director Hussain Abdulla responded: “The unjust charges that have been heaped on Nabeel Rajab are entirely unacceptable, as is the arbitrary detention and ill-treatment that he has been subjected to. The international community must stand firmly behind Nabeel and other Bahraini human rights defenders as they fight for freedom in their home country. In this regard, actions speak much louder than words.”

Despite repeated calls in Congress and even within President Trump’s own State Department for Bahrain to release Rajab, the US government recently approved a $3.8 billion arms sale to Bahrain. This deal includes new F-16 fighter jets and upgrades to Bahrain’s existing stock along with anti-missiles and patrol boats. According to an unnamed US official, the proposed sales were cleared by the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees through the regular “tiered review process.”  This comes despite strong words from Senator Bob Corker, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who stated in June that no arms sales would be made to any members of the Gulf Cooperation Council until a solution to the Qatar crisis had been found. The State Department’s approval of such massive arm sales demonstrates a complete disregard for the ongoing human rights abuses in Bahrain, including the plight of Nabeel Rajab that the Department itself has protested.

At this time, with Rajab’s next trial session pushed back to 19 November, ADHRB reiterates the call it has sounded since Rajab’s first arrest: he must be immediately released and all charges against him must be dropped. Furthermore, the Bahraini government should allow Rajab to travel internationally and seek necessary medical attention. ADHRB also calls on Bahrain’s key allies and partners, the US and UK, to insist on the prompt release of Rajab and all other arbitrary detained prisoners. Washington and London should uphold their moral responsibility to use all available forms of leverage to press for Rajab’s freedom and for comprehensive human rights reforms in Bahrain.