SHAFAQNA – “Today’s verdict shows once again that Bahrain is brazenly flouting its international obligations,” said Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program Said Boumedouha on Thursday.
“Nabeel Rajab has been sentenced solely for peacefully expressing his opinion. The Bahraini authorities must release him immediately and unconditionally, and ensure his conviction is quashed,” Boumedouha added.
The Bahrain News Agency quoted the attorney general’s office in the kingdom as saying earlier in the day that Rajab had been convicted of “publicly insulting two government bodies,” making a reference to the interior and defense ministries in the Persian Gulf state.
The rights group also deprecated the Bahraini regime for gagging political activists by treating freedom of expression as “crime.”
“The Bahraini authorities have expressed outrage at criticism of their human rights record, claiming they have introduced a series of reforms in recent years. However, this case provides further proof that these reforms amount to little more than empty gestures. Bahrain today remains a country where exercising freedom of speech is treated as a crime,” Boumedouha added.
Rajab was sentenced to six months in prison in January for posting tweets deemed critical of the Al Khalifa regime. Known internationally for his peaceful human rights work, Rajab spent two years in prison from mid-2012 to mid-2014.
On May 11, Mohammed al-Jishi, Rajab’s lawyer, said the country’s criminal court has decided to extend the detention pending further investigation. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights also confirmed the news.
Rajab’s family says he was arrested on April 2 for posting comments on Twitter denouncing torture in a regime detention center where activists are held.
Rajab, the director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and a co-founder of the [Persian] Gulf Center for Human Rights, has been critical of Manama’s heavy-handed crackdown on the peaceful anti-regime protests that erupted in the kingdom in 2011.
Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds of others injured and arrested in the ongoing crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.