Bahrain Jails Nabeel Rajab for 3 Years
A Bahraini court sentenced prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab to three years in jail for taking part in and instigating “illegal gatherings.” The penalty comes from three separate cases which each yielded a one-year sentence and Rajab’s lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi said that an appeal is planned. Rajab was already in jail, serving a three-month sentence after being convicted of tweeting “insulting” comments, and 19 U.S. Congress members wrote a letter last week that called for Rajab’s release.
Front Line Defenders condemned the conviction and called for his immediate release, while the Index on Censorship echoed the condemnation. Reuters said the verdict is “likely to undermine a U.S. call for dialogue to defuse political tension” in the country. Brian Dooley of Human Rights First said, ”This is a shocking verdict, even by Bahrain’s own abysmal standards on human rights. The regime can’t be seen serious about human rights reform when it jails one of the world’s most prominent activists to prison for three years.” Dooley also tweeted that verdict was “an astonishing decision to jail a world leader on human rights.”
Human Rights First interviewed Saidyousif al-Mahafdha, a human rights defender with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who worked closely with Rajab. Al-Mahafdha sees unrest in Bahrain as an escalating situation. He expressed concern that “It seems like the regime in Bahrain doesn’t have any intentions on stopping the violations any time soon and without pressure internationally, especially from the US and UK, it will continue the same.”
Meanwhile, Jane Kinninmont of Foreign Policy wrote that despite the monarchy’s recent public relations efforts, “the root causes of the uprising remain unaddressed, in the absence of a process of political dialogue and negotiation.” She believes that while authorities may be using delays in the verdicts of other prominent activists as bargaining chips for dialogue, the opposition will have hard time convincing increasingly radical elements that such efforts are worthwhile.