The release from prison on 14 July 2015 after more than three months in solitary confinement, of Nabeel Rajab, human rights defender, writer and President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), is a welcome first step towards an improvement in the freedom of expression situation in the country, PEN International said today. Rajab was pardoned by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The global writers organisation also reiterated its call for the release of others held solely for exercising their right of freedom of expression.
“Nabeel Rajab is a fearless defender of freedom of expression in Bahrain and his release is very welcome news,” said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
“We urge the government of Bahrain not to stop with Nabeel Rajab, but to release immediately and unconditionally the many other prisoners of conscience being held in repudiation of their rights. That is the assurance of renewal of respect for freedom of expression in Bahrain that is urgently needed.”
Rajab was arrested at his home in Beni Jamra, Manama, Bahrain on 2 April 2015. His house was surrounded by some 20 police cars and a number of security forces participated in his arrest. He was presented with a warrant charging him with ‘spreading false news’. Rajab’s arrest was linked to a piece written by him and published by the Huffington Post entitled Into Bahrain’s Jaws of Hell, and for tweeting about the welfare of others held at the same prison. He was charged with ‘insulting a statutory body’ and ‘spreading rumours during war time’ and sentenced to six months imprisonment. The ruling was upheld in May by an appeals court.
Between 2012 and 2014 Rajab spent two years in prison for taking part in ‘illegal gatherings’. He was released in May 2014.
Rajab’s release comes days after the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for an EU-wide ban on the supply of tear gas and crowd control equipment to Bahrain and for the immediate release of Nabeel Rajab and other prisoners of conscience. PEN continues to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a state party, including writer and human rights activist, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace.
PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression and is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. Founded in 1921, PEN International connects an international community of writers from its Secretariat in London. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. Through Centres in over 100 countries, PEN operates on five continents. PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO. International PEN is a registered charity in England and Wales with registration number 1117088. www.pen-international.org
For further information please contact Cathy McCann at PEN International, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: firstname.lastname@example.org