Bahrain court denies bail for top human rights activist
A Bahraini court has denied bail for Nabeel Rajab as the prominent human rights activist remains behind bars over online comments deemed insulting to the Al Khalifah regime and neighboring Saudi Arabia.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), a non-profit non-governmental organization led by Rajab, announced the development on Wednesday.
Rajab, who has been repeatedly detained for organizing anti-regime demonstrations and publishing posts critical of the ruling dynasty, was pardoned for health reasons last year. However, the 51-year-old campaigner was rearrested last month.
He was briefly hospitalized late last month over health problems, but the court ordered that he remain in custody throughout the trial.
He will be tried over tweets he posted in March 2015 criticizing Manama’s involvement in the deadly Saudi aggression against Yemen and torture at Bahrain’s notorious Jaw Prison.
The internationally-respected activist faces charges of “insulting a statutory body, insulting a neighboring country and disseminating false rumors in time of war.”
Rajab was expected to stand trial on Tuesday, but the hearing was adjourned to August 2.
Earlier this week, 26 rights groups, including Human Rights First and Physicians for Human Rights, released a joint statement calling on Manama to free the rights campaigner.
“We remind the Bahraini government of its obligation to preserve the right to free expression,” the statement read, adding, “We reiterate repeated calls by United Nations officials, and others in the international community, to immediately release Rajab.”
However, Mohammed al-Jishi, the lawyer representing Rajab, said a request for his client’s release was turned down.
Amnesty International has condemned Rajab’s trial as “farcical,” warning that the Bahraini activist could face up to 13 years in prison if convicted.
Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the Persian Gulf region, has seen a wave of anti-regime protests since mid-February 2011.
The Al Khalifah regime is engaged in a harsh crackdown on dissent and widespread discrimination against the country’s Shia majority. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in the tiny Persian Gulf state.