Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab: 'I will not stop'

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Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab (R) is greeted by Bahrain's Al-Wefaq opposition group leader Sheikh Ali Salman after Rajab arrived home following his release on bail in the village of Bani Jamrah, West of Manama, on November 2, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Mohammed al-Shaikh)

Published Monday, November 3, 2014

A Bahraini court Sunday freed prominent activist Nabeel Rajab but barred him from travel until his trial resumes over Tweets that were critical of state institutions, a judicial source said, as Rajab vowed to continue the fight for human rights no matter what happens.

After his release, a picture on his Twitter account showed Rajab in a car, smiling and flashing a "V" for victory sign, as his family said he arrived home.

The criminal court in Manama ordered Rajab's release from custody and adjourned the trial until January 20, the source told AFP.

Last month, Rajab, director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and co-founder of Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was summoned for questioning by the cyber crimes unit at the Criminal Investigation Directorate.

A letter from the GCHR staff and Advisory Board members said the investigation, which lasted for 45 minutes, evolved around “tweets posted on his Twitter account that denigrated government institutions.”

The trial has been condemned by advocacy groups, including Human Rights Watch, which also called for the charges against Rajab to be dropped.

Amnesty International said Sunday that "while we welcome that Nabeel Rajab has been released on bail, he should never have been detained in the first place."

"The Bahraini authorities are merely obfuscating, meanwhile a man's future hangs in the balance," said Amnesty's MENA deputy director, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

In his first interview after his release, Rajab told Russia Today on Sunday that “human rights activists in this country [Bahrain] are the main target of the regime and its institutions” and that they “are forced to be silent.”

“Many people are behind bars today [in Bahrain] because of a tweet they have made or because of criticism they have written in a newspaper or online,” he said, adding that he was detained with over 4,000 political prisoners.

“We [activists] are suffocating. The regime doesn’t want us to speak up and criticize government institutions, although these institutions have been responsible for a lot of human rights violations.”

Rajab rose to prominence after taking a leading role in mass demonstrations in Bahrain in 2011 which asked for reforms in the Gulf kingdom.

He was jailed in May 2012 on charges of organizing and participating in illegal protests. He was released in May 2014.

Bahrain, with the help of Saudi Arabia, crushed the peaceful demonstrations that began on Feb. 14, 2011 inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere, but has yet to resolve the conflict between the population and the monarchy oppressing them.

Asked whether he will continue campaigning for human rights, Rajab asserted that he “is now more determined” to fight until the end.

“The struggle has to continue. We have been under the ruling of the Khalifa family for the past 200 years. Justice, equality and democracy are not free of charge … a lot of people have sacrificed their lives over the years and, compared to them, my imprisonment is nothing,” he explained.

“Whatever happens, I will not stop,” he concluded.

Rajab is regarded as a hero among ordinary Bahrainis, with his portrait plastered on walls across the country alongside other political prisoners including Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a prominent activist and former president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who was sentenced to life in jail for "plotting to overthrow" the dictatorship.

Last month, Abdulhadi’s daughter Zainab al-Khawaja was detained after a judge accused her of insulting King Hamad by tearing up his picture.

Earlier this year, the Bahraini king, a long-standing ally of Washington, approved a law imposing a jail sentence of up to seven years and a fine of up to 10,000 dinars ($26,500) for anyone who publicly insulted him.

Zainab was a prominent activist during the 2011 protests, where she became known for publishing news of the uprising on social media especially after she called for international attention to focus on an estimated 3,000 prisoners believed to be behind bars in Bahrain on politically related charges.

Today, Bahrain has the distinction of being the country with the second highest prison population rate per 100,000 amongst Arab states in the West Asian and North African region.

There are over 200 minors held within these prisons, forced to stay side-by-side with adults, and a few have faced torture and sexual abuses.

Even though Bahrain, home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, quelled the 2011 protests, it continues to witness sporadic protests which often spiral into clashes with police.

Bahrain on November 22 will hold its first parliamentary elections since the uprising.

The polls have been boycotted by several opposition groups, including the main opposition bloc Al-Wefaq, which was banned by a court decision last week from carrying out any activities for three months.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)


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