Assange sends protest package to Bahrain's top political prisoner

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A Bahraini protester prepares posters during a demonstration in solidarity with jailed freelance photographer Hussain Hubail in the village of Abu Saiba, west of Manama on October 25, 2013. (Photo: AFP - Mohammed al-Shaikh)

By: Marc Abizeid

Published Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange has sent an "experimental" protest package fitted with a GPS tracker and spy camera to record its journey to jailed Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab.

The package, sent from London on Monday, contains statements from international organizations demanding the release of Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), who is serving a two-year sentence in Bahrain's notorious Jaw prison for organizing pro-democracy protests.

The 49-year-old rights leader was arrested several times and repeatedly tortured in the wake of the island kingdom's anti-government uprising that erupted in February 2011, drawing a slew of international criticism.

"This is an experiment," said Domagoj Smoljo, co-founder of Mediengruppe Bitnik, a Zurich-based digital art and hacktivist group which is behind the parcel project.

"We are trying to overcome certain boundaries and get to places that people usually have a hard time accessing," Carmen Weisskopf, another Bitnik co-founder, added.

The group originally sent a similar package earlier this year to Julian Assange at his refuge inside London's Ecuadorian Embassy to break what they described as a police siege there.

Assange has been holed up in the embassy for over a year. He believes British authorities intend to arrest and extradite him to the United States over his role in the publication of a barrage of incriminating government documents provided to WikiLeaks by former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010.

"Everything is possible," Smoljo said when asked if he believed Assange's package to Rajab will reach its destination. "When we said we're going to send a parcel to Assange, everyone told us this will never pass border customs."

WikiLeaks' website confirmed that Assange sent the package to Rajab.

Bitnik's members said that they had a conversation with Assange in which he decided that Rajab would be the best recipient for the traceable shipment.

"Nabeel's commitment to the moral importance of [Bahrain's pro-democracy] movement cannot be doubted," Assange said in an online statement.

"Along with many other Bahrainis, he has given over his life and freedom for the reform of his country. Together, they have given everything. It is the regime that must now give ground," Assange added.

A court originally sentenced Rajab in August 2012 to a three-year sentence on charges related to his activism, but the sentence was later reduced by one year in an appeal that outraged his supporters who believed he would be released following an avalanche of international support.

Hundreds of activists, physicians, lawyers, bloggers and journalists have been arrested since the beginning of the uprising inside the tiny Gulf kingdom of 1.2 million people.

BCHR says at least 89 people have been killed at the hands of police in the country since February 2011.


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