March 23, 2017
On 22 March 2017, Manama’s Fifth High Criminal Court postponed again Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab’s trial in the Twitter case, in clear contempt of international human rights standards. His arbitrary detention and judicial harassment are only meant to silence one of Bahrain’s most vocal human rights defenders, say the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Front Line Defenders, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT).
Arbitrarily detained since 13 June 2016, Nabeel Rajab is facing a series of charges and up to 18 years in prison. In the “Twitter case”, ongoing since 02 April 2015, Nabeel Rajab is accused of “deliberately spreading false information and malicious rumours with the aim of discrediting the State”, “disseminating false rumours in time of war”, “insulting a statutory body” and “offending a foreign country [Saudi Arabia]” in relation to Tweets denouncing the torture of detainees in the Kingdom’s Jaw Prison and human rights violations perpetrated by the Saudi-Arabia led coalition air strikes in Yemen. The thirteenth hearing is scheduled on 17 May 2017. In addition, Nabeel Rajab is facing charges of “spreading false information and malicious rumours about domestic matters with the aim of discrediting and adversely affecting the State’s prestige” in a separate case related to three televised interviews made in 2015 and 2016 in which Nabeel Rajab exposed Bahrain’s poor human rights record. The next hearing in that case is on 3 May 2017.
“Despite a court order to temporarily release him following a failure to give any sufficient evidence in the Twitter case, Nabeel Rajab remains arbitrarily detained. Arbitrary and solitary detention, endless postponements, denial of visa for international human rights NGOs have been jeopardising the judicial process. Bahrain is failing its international obligations and makes a mockery of justice,” declared the organisations.
Further investigations are underway and may lead to additional charges, including “intentionally broadcasting false news and malicious rumours abroad impairing the prestige of the state” following the publication on 05 September 2016 of an Op-Ed in The New York Times with his by-line, which discussed the conditions of his imprisonment and arrest.