Home Page > News Item > Bahrain: Writer and human rights defender remains in custody despite worsening health condition

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7 July 2017

Bahraini authorities must stop all criminal proceedings against Nabeel Rajab, ensure the full respect of his rights as a prisoner, and order his immediate and unconditional release, PEN International said today. Rajab, a prominent human rights defender and writer, remains in detention since his arrest on 13 June 2016, in spite of his deteriorating health due to poor prison conditions and mistreatment. PEN International believes Rajab is being detained for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and for his peaceful human rights activities.

‘It is outrageous that Nebeel Rajab, a peaceful advocate for human rights, is detained again. Bahraini authorities must stop this relentless campaign of harassment and intimidation against him, respect his basic human rights and allow him to return to his family immediately’ – said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee

Rajab’s poor health prevented him from attending his previous court hearings on 14 June and on 3 July 2017. He is currently in hospital waiting for the next hearing, which is due to take place on the 10th July 2017. A verdict is expected at this hearing and Rajab is at risk of receiving up to 3 years’ imprisonment for “spreading false news” in relation to media interviews he gave. Rajab is currently allowed limited contact with his family, with no possibility of communication with his lawyers.

The presiding judge over Rajab’s case has refused all requests submitted by his lawyers to release him, despite the length of his detention period in solitary confinement and clear evidence about the deteriorating condition of his health. According to PEN’s information, he is at risk of being sent back to prison in spite of his bad health and his need for hospitalisation, in order to force his presence at the next hearing. The charges against Rajab are a clear violation of his right to freedom of expression, protected under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Bahrain has ratified.

Background

Nabeel Rajab is a prominent human rights defender and writer, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights and on the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division. He has been prosecuted and detained repeatedly due to his peaceful human rights activities and writings. Between 2012 and 2014, Rajab spent two years in prison for taking part in ‘illegal gatherings’. On 2 April 2015, Rajab was arrested and detained three months in solitary confinement before being released in July 2015, following a royal pardon due to his health conditions.

Rajab was arrested again on 13 June 2016 due to his writings and interviews critical of the Bahraini authorities, more particularly his regular appeal for the release of prisoners of conscience, the political reform and the respect of human rights. He faces up to a total of 18 years behind bars for three separate legal cases, the trials for two of which have been postponed 20 times. In one of the three cases against him, in which he faces up to 15 years in prison, Rajab was charged in relation to his social media posts with: “insulting a statutory body”; “spreading rumours in war time”; and “insulting a neighbouring country.” In another of the three cases, Rajab faces up to three years in prison on charges of “spreading false news”, in relation to interviews given to the media. In September 2016, he was charged again with “spreading false news” after the New York Times published a letter in his name.

Since his arrest in June 2016, Rajab had been held largely in solitary confinement, and his health has deteriorated as a result. He was sent to the hospital where he remains detained. For more than two weeks, Mr. Rajab was prevented from contacting his lawyers. Furthermore, visits and contact with his family are not always granted in spite of his poor health condition. According to a medical examination report issued by the Criminal Investigation Directorate on 4 June 2017, Rajab suffers from “Hypertension, unspecified allergy, Gastritis with anxiety disorder”.

PEN International has been working to support Rajab’s right to freedom of expression. On 13 of June of this year, PEN joined a coalition of free expression and rights organizations in raising concerns with the United Nation’s Member and Observer States on Rajab’s deteriorating health, calling them to urge the Bahrain authorities to end the unlawful detainment of Mr. Rajab and to release him immediately.  PEN International remains deeply concerned about Rajab’s health and conditions of detention and calls for his immediate release and for all charges against him to be dropped.

To see more PEN’s previous action on Nabeel Rajab please click here.

For any further information, please contact Nael Georges, PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN | Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 | Email: Nael.Georges@pen-international.org

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