Rights groups slam Bahraini activist sentence

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Friday, August 17, 2012

Leading human rights groups have called for the immediate release of Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab, who was sentenced on Thursday to three years in prison on charges of organizing illegal protests in the country.

Rajab, the co-founder and president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), has been imprisoned since May, currently serving a three-month prison sentence for calling on the prime minister to resign on Twitter earlier this year.

The latest charges referred to his role in organizing three major pro-democracy marches since the uprising began in February 2011.

“The court's decision is a dark day for justice in Bahrain,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's MENA deputy director said in a statement. “He should be released immediately and his convictions and sentences quashed.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement describing his conviction as a “violation of his right to freedom of assembly.”

“This ruling shows that Bahrain’s rulers are committed to a policy of comprehensive repression,” Joe Stork, HRW deputy director for the Middle East, said. “Instead of releasing people jailed for peaceful dissent, it seems determined to lock up even more people who try to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free expression.”

Protesters gathered outside the Bahraini embassy in Washington yesterday to protest the verdict.

Bahraini authorities have led a massive crackdown on dissidents since a mass popular uprising erupted in the tiny Gulf state last year. Saudi troops entered Bahrain at the behest of its rulers in March 2011 to help authorities crush the uprising, but protesters have persisted nonetheless.

The US State Department, which has been largely silent on the pro-democracy uprising plaguing its Gulf ally, has joined calls for Bahraini authorities to dismiss yesterday's ruling and release the activist.

“We've long made clear that it's critical for all governments, including Bahrain, to respect freedom of expression, freedom of assembly. So we are deeply troubled by the sentencing today of Nabeel Rajab to three years in prison on charges of illegally gathering,” Victoria Nuland, State Department spokeswoman, said Thursday.

BHCR released a statement today criticizing the US government's long silence on the arrest and detention of Rajab and other activists.

“When Nabeel Rajab was arrested and imprisoned in May 2012, there was no response from the US administration … The lack of pressure from the US administration appears to be linked with the Bahraini government's willingness to escalate [attacks on activists],” the statement read.

Hundreds protest verdict

Hundreds protested yesterday at the announcement of the verdict across different villages in Bahrain, which were violently suppressed by police, according to activists.

Injured protesters are usually treated in their homes, said Said Yussif, deputy head of the BCHR, as police have set up checkpoints on the streets leading to hospitals and at their entrances to arrest activists. No deaths were reported.

Demonstrators also burned tires to block the road leading to the US embassy in Manama at 5:00am on Friday.

“It was the fifth time in three months protesters block the road,” Said Yussif, deputy head of the BCHR, said.

“People are disappointed at the double standard of the US government towards the people of Bahrain. They are angry. They know that the US government strongly supports the Bahraini government.”

Bahrain is a strategic US ally, home to America's Fifth Fleet, and on the doorstep of Iran.

Washington resumed arms sales to Bahrain in May, despite the ongoing crackdown on protesters.

(Al-Akhbar)

Comments

History narrates that as tyrant steps brutal suppression so his down fall would increase as these tyrants ignorant from the fact "Injustice anywhere is threat to Justice everywhere". The fact remains that these tyrants rely & believe in force with it's different form, tortures, harassments including judiciary as tool to silence freedom fighters & human rights defenders.Nabeel Rajab is only the latest victim. The Bahrain regime is holding more than 1400 detainess as hostages. Freedom lovers of the world wake up & take up the challenge to defend democracy in Bahrain by siding with it's national struggle & peaceful revolution.

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