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Sentencing of Activist Shows Failure of Political Reform in Bahrain
Freedom House denounces the sentencing of human rights activist Nabeel Rajab to three years imprisonment in Bahrain on trumped up charges. This harsh sentence is clear evidence of the failure of the government to follow through on promised political reforms and a reflection of the ongoing repressive environment for those that oppose the regime. Freedom House calls on Bahraini authorities to immediately release and drop all charges against him, and to implement reforms to secure freedom of expression without fear of harm or prosecution.
On August 16, Rajab, who has faced numerous arrests, was handed a three-year sentence for taking part in several “illegal gatherings.” He is currently serving three months in jail for defamatory tweets. Rajab, who has over 150,000 followers on Twitter, called for Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman-al-Khalifa to step down and said that the citizens of the town of Muharraq had only welcomed him when he visited because he had offered them subsidies. Rajab’s lawyers filed two appeals which requested that his jail sentence be commuted to community service and his sentence be suspended altogether, respectively. Rajab’s appeal in that case has been deferred to August 23 and he is currently being held in Jaw Central Prison in an unairconditioned cell despite balmy temperatures.
Bahrain is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom of the Press 2012 and Freedom on the Net 2011. Bahraini citizens have been broadly engaged in protests since February 2011, calling for a more representative government and denouncing ethnic-based inequities in a country run by the Sunni Al-Khalifa royal family where the majority is Shiite. Bahrain has failed to implement meaningful political reforms, and rights groups have reported ongoing arrests, intimidation, and in some cases torture of those who speak out against the regime.
Freedom in the World 2012: Bahrain