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KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN: Assault on freedom of expression continues as activists face jail for tweets

2 Nov 2016
[International Secretariat]
Region: KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN
Topic:

Bahraini authorities must immediately and unconditionally release human rights activist Nabeel Rajab and opposition leader Fadhel Abbas, two prisoners of conscience who are facing long prison sentences for using Twitter to voice concerns about human rights abuses in the conflict in Yemen, Amnesty International said today.

Both men have criticized the killing of civilians in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which includes Bahrain. They have already been wrongfully detained for months and are expecting their respective court’s verdicts in the next week.

“It is an outrage that Nabeel Rajab and Fadhel Abbas have spent even one minute in jail – the Bahraini authorities cannot silence every last critic by throwing them behind bars. They must drop all charges against Nabeel Rajab and quash Fadhel Abbas’ five year jail term, and immediately cease their relentless crackdown on freedom of expression,” said Samah Hadid, Deputy Director of Campaigns at Amnesty International's Beirut regional office.

“In a climate of increasing hostility towards dissent of any kind, Bahrain needs independent voices like Nabeel Rajab and Fadhel Abbas more than ever. They should be applauded and protected, not punished, for their brave efforts to raise human rights concerns.”

Nabeel Rajab, one of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defenders, has been in and out of prison several times since 2012. He has been in detention since June 2016 on charges including “insulting public authorities” that are in relation to tweets he posted alleging torture in Bahrain’s Jaw prison, and criticizing the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s conduct. He is due to be sentenced on 31 October and faces up to 15 years in prison.

Fadhel Abbas is the former Secretary General of the opposition al-Wahdawi party. He was sentenced in June 2015 to five years in prison for “spreading false information that could damage military operations of Bahrain and its allies and calling for resistance”, after his party posted a tweet describing the air strikes in Yemen as a violation of international law. He is due to receive a verdict on his appeal on 26 October.

“As well as calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Fadhel Abbas and Nabeel Rajab, we are urging the Bahraini authorities to repeal or amend laws that criminalize the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression, in line with Bahrain’s obligations under international law,” said Samah Hadid.

Background

Since May 2016 Bahrain has seen an alarming intensification in the crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement.

The Bahraini Penal Code allows for up to 10 years imprisonment for anyone who “deliberately announces in wartime false or malicious news, statements or rumours or mounts adverse publicity campaigns”.

25 October 2016
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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