EU Calls for Freedom of Bahraini Human Rights Activist
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A European Commission spokesperson on Thursday called for the release of Nabeel Rajab, a Bahraini human rights activists who has recently received five additional years in jail for comments posted on social media.
On February 21, Bahrain’s High Criminal Court sentenced Nabeel Rajab to five additional years in prison for comments posted on social media. This verdict follows the one which had already been handed down in January. Other cases against him are still pending, the European Commission spokesperson’s statement said.
“The case of Mr Rajab has become a symbol for human rights defenders and respect of freedom of speech, in Bahrain and beyond. This new sentence, as well as the open cases against Mr Rajab, run counter to the Government of Bahrain's own commitments as the country prepares itself for new parliamentary elections,” the statement added.
It noted that the “European Union once again reiterates its call to grant Mr Rajab's release, including on humanitarian grounds due to his deteriorating health condition, and seizes this opportunity to encourage all parties in Bahrain to contribute to resume dialogue with a view to relaunch a process of national reconciliation in a peaceful and constructive manner.”
Prominent rights groups have strongly censured Bahrain for handing down the five-year jail term to Rajab for criticizing the regimes in Manama and Saudi Arabia, a ruling which also sparked angry public protests at home.
“The new prison sentence for Nabeel Rajab is only the latest chapter in years of persecution and efforts to silence an activist solely for his efforts to sound the alarm on human rights abuses,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday.
“Rajab should never have faced such charges or spent one day in prison for them,” she said.
Amnesty International also slammed the ruling as a “shameful attack on freedom of expression.”
Amnesty’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa Heba Morayef called the verdict “a slap in the face to justice.”
“This sentence demonstrates the authorities’ ruthless determination to crush all forms of dissent and leaves no room for doubt about the extreme lengths to which they are willing to go to in order to silence peaceful critics,” she said on Wednesday.
“This shameful verdict must be quashed and the authorities must drop all pending charges and immediately release Nabeel Rajab. It is absolutely outrageous that he be forced to spend a further five years in jail simply for daring to voice his opinions online,” she adde.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) also condemned the verdict as “outrageous sentence [that] contributes to further shut down space for civil society in the country.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned the “unjustified” sentence and called for Rajab’s “immediate release.”
“We are appalled by the way the Bahraini authorities are persecuting a man whose only crime has been to use his right to free speech to draw attention to human rights violations,” RSF said.
On Wednesday night, Bahrainis took to the streets in several areas of the Persian Gulf kingdom to vent their anger at the ruling handed down to the rights activist.
Demonstrators staged rallies in several villages in the suburbs of the capital Manama, shouting anti-regime slogans and denouncing the recent ruling.
In some areas police clashed with protesters and used tear gas to disperse them.
Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.
Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifa regime’s crackdown.