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Nabeel Rajab: Background Information & Previous Harassment

Since 2011, Nabeel Rajab has faced more than eight legal cases. He was detained in prison for a total of 33 months between 2012 and 2015. He was also subjected to ill-treatment on several occasions, and has been threatened by the authorities multiple times. In addition, Rajab has been under a travel ban since November 2014.

In 2011, Rajab was dragged from his house after midnight on 20 March, by masked security forces. They blindfolded and handcuffed him, then beat and harassed him. He was at that time briefly detained, before being allowed to go back to his house. In April and May 2011, his house was twice attacked with tear gas, putting the lives of his family at risk. Yet, the authorities never held those responsible accountable for these attacks. He was also interrogated several times about statements he made on twitter, including a formal interrogation by the military prosecution in May 2011. He was banned from travel for several months in 2011 to stop him from participating in international human rights events or attending meetings. The authorities also made it difficult for Rajab to earn his living, and contributed to pushing him to close his personal business. In addition, his family members were targeted, his children were harassed at school, and his wife was fired from her job after a campaign of harassment.  It seems that the authorities wished to ensure that any source of income for Rajab and his family was stopped.

Since the beginning of 2012, the regime has moved to a regular practice of judicial harassment against Rajab. On 7 January 2012, Rajab was subject to a violent attack and beaten by security men during his participation in a peaceful demonstration in the capital Manama, leaving him with serious facial and head injuries. He was also arrested and detained between 5 to 28 May 2012 on charges of alleged defamation of an official authority via Twitter. In this case, the judge ruled against Rajab on 27 June 2012 and ordered him to pay a fine of 300 Bahraini dinars.

Rajab had been again arrested and detained from 6 to 27 June 2012 on charges of allegedly “libeling the citizens of the town of Muharraq.” This case was linked to six tweets he posted on 2 June 2012, which were solely directed towards the Prime Minister of Bahrain, highlighting his corruption and calling him to step down. The Primary Court sentenced him to three months over these charges on 9 July 2012, and again he was arrested immediately after. Although the court later acquitted him of these charges, on 23 August 2012, Rajab remained in jail to serve other sentences.

On 16 August 2012, a court issued a sentence of three years’ imprisonment for Rajab over multiple charges - including “participation in illegal gathering” and “calling for a march over social media networks.” At that time, he was already in detention, having been arrested on 9 July 2012, and so he was forced to spend the next two years in prison. This sentence was reduced to two years, after an appeal on 11 Dec 2012. It was during this detention period that Rajab was subject to degrading treatment and harassment. The right to defense during his trial was undermined, as at least one defense witness was banned from entering Bahrain, and the defense team had no access to the complete evidence filed in the criminal case in due time.

On November 2013 -and again on December 2013 when Nabeel Rajab had already served three quarters of his two-year sentences - the court denied him the right to early release, despite the fact that Rajab was eligible for early release in pursuance of the conditions laid under Article 349 of the Criminal Procedural Code, which sets three conditions: three quarters of the sentence has been served, good behavior during detention and not being a threat to public security.

Rajab was released after fully serving a two-year prison sentence, on 24 May 2014, without being granted the right to early release. Less than four months later, on 1 Oct 2014, he was re-arrested after a month-long advocacy trip to European capitals. He was charged for a single tweet, in which both the MOI and the Ministry of Defense allege that he “denigrated government institutions.” He was then held in custody until 2 Nov 2014, before being released on bail while the trial was ongoing. A travel ban was at this time imposed on him.

Subsequently, on 20 January 2015, a Bahraini court sentenced Rajab to six months in prison on charges of “insulting the Ministry of Interior” related to a tweet he published in September 2014. Rajab was also ordered to pay 200 BHD ($530 USD) for his bail during his appeal process. Then, on 14 May 2015, the court of appeal upheld the six-month imprisonment sentence.

However, on 1 March 2015, Rajab was summoned to the police station and interrogated for accusations of “inciting hatred towards the regime” in relation to a speech he had delivered years previously in February 2011. One month later, on 2 April 2015, Bahraini security forces arrested Rajab at his home in Bani Jamra, in relation to tweets and retweets about the war in Yemen, and also to allegations of torture in Jau prison after a prison riot in March 2015. In a statement following his arrest, the Bahraini MOI confirmed the charges against Rajab, stating that he “posted information that could incite others and disrupt civil peace,” and that he “illegally defamed a statutory body.”. For this Rajab is being tried tomorrow, 12 July 2016.

On 9 July 2015, the European Parliament passed an Urgency Resolution “on Bahrain, in particular the case of Nabeel Rajab,” calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Nabeel Rajab, and other imprisoned human rights defenders and political activists. Following this and other international pressure, on 13 July 2015, Rajab was released by royal decree on “health grounds,” although his charges were not dropped. Bahraini authorities maintained their arbitrary travel ban imposed on Rajab, despite the pardon. His lawyer submitted four appeals against this ban, yet the authorities remained unresponsive. The ban hindered Rajab’s activism, as well as his ability to travel with his sick wife who needs medical treatment that is unavailable in Bahrain.

On 16 July 2015, three United Nations Special Rapporteurs, the SR on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst; the SR on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye; and the SR on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association Maina Kiai, all acknowledged the shortcomings of the pardon. While welcoming Rajab’s release they said it was “only a half measure, given that he is still facing charges that carry up to fifteen years of imprisonment."


Before 2011

Rajab has been targeted and harassed continuously for years as a result of his human rights activism. He has been personally attacked by slanderous campaigns through the media, including on national television and radio channels, in pro-government newspapers, as well as by some daily columnists, who have been allowed to write about Rajab without any legal or moral obligations.

In the second half of 2010, a travel ban was imposed on Rajab which continued throughout 2011. He was banned from travelling to Paris to attend a meeting of the International Federation for Human Rights. In a similar incidence, Rajab was harassed by national security forces at Bahrain International Airport on 2 December 2010, as he was travelling to Greece. He was detained for an hour while they searched his laptop and phone thoroughly. They also threatened him.

In September 2010, he was subject to a defamation campaign by a local newspaper, with close ties to the royal court, which published a picture of Rajab as part of a group of human rights defenders and politicians who the Bahraini authorities accused of allegedly establishing a “terrorist cell.”

In August 2009, Rajab was detained for a short time for his participation in a protest outside the Saudi Embassy in Manama, requesting the release of Mohammed Al-Murbati, one of the Bahraini detainees in Saudi prisons.

Years before, in March 2007, the Bahraini attorney general called Rajab in for investigation after BCHR published the “Bandar-Gate” Report, which spoke about the exclusion of Shia, and the fueling of sectarian conflicts within Bahrain.

Rajab was even attacked by private security forces in July 2005, while he was supporting a protest staged by unemployed Bahrainis. He sustained several contusions, bruises, and a back injury, as well as the fracture of one finger, scratches in the head, and whole body markings from being beaten by sticks. As a result of that, he was hospitalized for more than 10 days.