On 5 January 2017, the public prosecution renewed the detention of leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), for 15 days. BCHR strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Rajab over baseless charges related to the fundamental right to freedom of expression, and calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release him and drop all charges against him.

The public prosecution had initially ordered the detention of Rajab on 29 December 2016 for seven days over new charges of “disseminating false and malicious news, statements and rumors about the internal affairs of the kingdom of Bahrain that could damage its status.” This case relates to media interviews he gave in 2015. The move came immediately after a court ordered his release on another case related to tweets and re-tweets. His next hearing in this case is scheduled on 23 January. However, the prosecution has again renewed the detention on the new charges for a further 15 days on 5 January 2017.

Rajab has been in detention for over 200 days since 13 June 2016, when he was arrested for “spreading false news and rumours about the internal situation in a bid to discredit Bahrain." Since then, he received additional charges over an Op-ed published in “The New York Times” in September 2016, and then again he was interrogated in December 2016 over an article in the French newspaper “Le Monde”. He was accused of using the latter article to “spread false information and tendentious rumors” that allegedly insult Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and harm their relations. In sum, Rajab is facing over 15 years in prison if convicted.

Since his arrest, Rajab’s health has suffered due to poor detention conditions and he was transferred to the prison hospital multiple times for chest pain and irregular heart beats.

BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to respect its obligations for the protection of human rights defenders and the freedom of expression, and to end the judicial harassment against Nabeel Rajab and immediately and unconditionally release him.