Jailed for a tweet – human rights defender sentenced for three years in Bahrain

16 Aug 2012

Human rights worker Nabeel Rajab, who was jailed today for three years in Bahrain for his use of social media. Photo by Conor McCabe

The president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights Nabeel Rajab has been sentenced to three years in prison on charges of using social media – in particular, Twitter – for illegal assembly.

Rajab is being held at Jaw central prison under harsh conditions, according to human rights group Front Line Defenders.

The sentencing is one of several trials that Rajab will face between now and October.

In May, Rajab was brought before Bahrain’s Court of First Instance for participating in illegal rallies and marches by using social networking websites.

According to Front Line Defenders, his outspoken criticism of the king and prime minister of Bahrain stung the authorities and he was charged with using Twitter to “defame” and “humiliate” the Bahraini public security forces.

Intimidation and harassment

Rajab has been the subject of an ongoing campaign of intimidation and judicial harassment to deter him from his human rights work and has even had tear gas shells fired at his home while his family was asleep.

“It is well-known that Nabeel exercised his right to freedom of expression in his tweets, which was guaranteed by all international conventions for human rights,” Rajab’s wife Sumaya said.

“Other cases taken against Nabeel related to his criticism of the security forces and the use of excessive force and torture and also his calls for peaceful protests through social networks. The right to assembly to demand civil rights is guaranteed by Bahraini laws.”

Speaking at Front Line Defenders in Dublin, the group’s president Mary Lawlor said: “Front Line Defenders condemns the imprisonment of Nabeel Rajab and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

“The prosecution of Nabeel Rajab for exercising his rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, before a court that has consistently failed to adhere to international fair trial standards, is part of an ongoing pattern of repression by the Bahraini authorities against human rights defenders,” Lawlor said.

That Rajab has been jailed more than two years after the Arab Spring protests broke out shows that not everything has changed across the Arab world.

“I will not stop, I am teaching people not to stop – to challenge them,” Rajab said in a recent interview with Front Line Defenders.

“If everybody keeps quiet it’s a disaster – we should challenge them – we should be willing to pay the price for the struggle for the freedom that we fight for – that’s the price.”

Video below courtesy of Front Line Defenders



John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years