On 19 January 2017, the public prosecution transferred the case of detained leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), to court to start trial hearings with the first session on 23 January 2017. 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.
Rajab appeared in front of the public prosecution today to face charges of "spreading false news" and "insulting a statutory body" due to some media interviews given the previous years. These charges are different from those related to his alleged twitter activity, for which he faces up to15 years in prison. On 23 January, he will be attending two trials.
Rajab has been in detention for over 220 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 the “The New York Times” Op-ed, 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. A court has previosuly ordered his release on 28 December 2016 on another case related to tweets and re-tweets, however he was kept in detention over other charges.
BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release the human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, and to end the judicial harassment against him and other human rights defender in the country.