The International Press Institute (IPI) today urged Bahrain to free prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab after prosecutors said a charge that he spread “false news” harming the state’s image stemmed from his claim that journalists and international NGOs were banned from entering Bahrain.

The disclosure, the first time that Bahrain’s government identified the basis for the charge, came on Jan. 23 during the first hearing in the case against Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and co-founder of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).

Neither Rajab, who reportedly was not notified of the hearing in advance, nor his attorney were present and the case was adjourned to Feb. 8. The case is related to statements Rajab made in interviews with news media in 2015 and 2016.

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