Nabeel Rajab, a renowned Bahraini activist and president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), was sentenced yesterday to six months in prison for “publicly insulting official institutions.” He had posted a tweet in which he accused the Bahraini soldiers to be fighting for the Islamic State, suggesting the Bahraini institutions as an ideological incubator for terrorism.
Amnesty International labelled this sentencing as a “blow to freedom of expression.”
Rajab was arrested in October 2014, after a two-months tour in Europe, that he undertook in an attempt to persuade world leaders to take a position against his country’s policies.
Indeed, Human Rights Watch (HRW) describes Bahrain’s situation regarding freedom of speech as “dismal,” and Freedom House marks Bahrain as a “not free country.” Things apparently deteriorated since the second half of 2010, after a pro-democracy uprising, incited by the tensions between the ruling Sunni minority and the Shi’a majority.
Rajab had been arrested in that occasion too. He served a period in jail from 2012 to 2014.
The new sentence was expected for today, and indeed, just after 3 p.m. (Central European Time) a tweet appeared on Rajab’s profile: “I was sentenced to six months.”
The court granted Rajab the option of a bail of $500 (£430) while he appeals against the verdict.
by Emanuele Del Rosso