On February 26, 2015, Mr. Rajab received a summoning order to the Hamad Town police station for accusations of “inciting hatred towards the regime”. On March 1, 2015, Mr. Rajab went to the police station where he was interrogated about a speech he made in February 2011. Mr. Rajab has denied all accusations, and his lawyers called for the accusations to be dropped. According to procedure, the police is in charge of collecting evidence and submitting it to the Public Prosecution, which will decide whether to press charges against Mr. Rajab.
The Observatory is highly concerned about the new summoning of - and potential new charges against - Mr. Rajab, who was already sentenced to six months imprisonment on January 20, 2015, and whose hearing in appeal is due to take place on March 4, 2015 (see background information).
The Observatory recalls that accusations of “incitement hatred towards the regime” are contrary to international human rights law, and in particular to the right to freedom of expression. The Observatory considers that Mr. Rajab has been targeted because of his legitimate human rights activities.
Therefore, the Observatory urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Mr. Rajab, and to comply with relevant international standards, in particular the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, as well as international human rights instruments ratified by Bahrain.
On January 20, 2015, the Third Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to six months imprisonment on charges of insulting public institutions via Twitter (see below). Mr. Rajab’s lawyers appealed the sentence and paid a bail of 200 Bahraini dinars, so that he is not imprisoned until the appeal is issued. According to the Criminal Procedure Code, sentences issued by lower criminal courts can be suspended with a bail posted, upon the agreement of the judge. However, a travel ban against Mr. Rajab is still in force pending the appeal . The hearing in appeal is due to take place on March 4, 2015.
On November 2, 2014, the Third Lower Criminal Court Jaber Al Jazar had ordered Mr. Rajab’s release but barred him from leaving the country, and announced that the verdict would be issued on January 20, 2015.
Previously, on October 1, 2014, Mr. Nabeel Rajab had been summoned by the General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security of the Criminal Investigation Department on the charge of “insulting a public institution” via Twitter. The investigation concerned certain tweets he published on Twitter, which the CID alleged were insulting the Ministry of Interior, pursuant to Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code, punishable by up to three years imprisonment. The CID decided to detain Mr. Rajab overnight before presenting him to the Public Prosecution on October 2 for further investigation. The Public Prosecution decided to keep Mr. Rajab under arrest for 7 days, pending further investigations. On October 9, 2014, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was brought again before the Public Prosecution Officer in Manama and informed that the Ministry of Defence had filed a complaint regarding the same tweet, which was the subject matter of the previous investigation. The interrogation lasted about 40 minutes.
Mr. Rajab reiterated his previous position denying all allegations against him and stressing that he was only exercising his freedom of expression in regard to a matter forming part of a large public debate and an open discussion in the local press, social networks and even in Bahraini officials’ public statements. On the same day, the Public Prosecution ordered the continued detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and decided to refer the case for trial before the Third Lower Criminal Court. On October 19, 2014, the Third Lower Criminal Court started the trial against Mr. Nabeel Rajab. The hearing was postponed to October 29 and then November 2 for the verdict.
In a previous case, on July 9, 2012, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was arrested after he had tweeted the following on June 2: "Khalifa, leave the residents of Al Muharraq, its Sheikhs and its elderly. Everyone knows that you are not popular here, and if it wasn’t for the subsidies, they wouldn’t have gone out to welcome you. When will you step down?".
On the same day, the 5th Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Rajab to three months imprisonment for allegedly libelling the residents of Al Muharraq through tweets posted on his twitter account. On August 23, 2012, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was acquitted by the Higher Appeal Court.
However, on August 16, 2012, the Lower Criminal Court had also sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to three years imprisonment for three cases related to his participation in peaceful gatherings in favour of fundamental freedoms and democracy:
The first case related to charges of “participating in an illegal assembly” and “calling others to join”, in relation to a protest organised on March 31, 2012 in Manama to denounce the detention of the founder of GCHR, former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), and former MENA Director at Front Line, Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.
The second one related to charges of “involvement in illegal practices and incitement to gatherings and calling for unauthorised marches through social networking sites” for a protest in Manama on January 12, 2012.
The third one on related to charges of “participating in an illegal assembly” in relation to several protests that took place in Manama in February 2012.
The Court thus sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to one year imprisonment for each of these three cases.
In December 2012, the Appeals Court reduced the sentence to two years imprisonment. Mr. Nabeel Rajab completed his sentence and was released on May 24, 2014.
The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:
i. Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Nabeel Rajab and against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
ii. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
iii. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:
its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;
its Article 6 (c) which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” ;
and its Article 12.2 which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
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