Bahrain: Nabeel Rajab pardoned and released from prison

English PEN joins PEN International in welcoming the release of Nabeel Rajab, a human rights defender, writer and President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR).

Nabeel Rajab was released from prison on 14 July 2015 after more than three months in solitary confinement. He had been pardoned by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, reportedly on health grounds. However, it is believed that a resolution passed by the European Parliament less than a week earlier, on 9 July, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of ‘all human rights defenders, political activists and other individuals detained and charged with alleged violations related to the rights of expression, peaceful assembly and association, including Nabeel Rajab’, also played a significant role in bringing about his release.

Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committe, said

Nabeel Rajab is a fearless defender of freedom of expression in Bahrain and his release is very welcome news. We urge the government of Bahrain not to stop with Nabeel Rajab, but to release immediately and unconditionally the many other prisoners of conscience being held in repudiation of their rights. That is the assurance of renewal of respect for freedom of expression in Bahrain that is urgently needed. 

Nabeel Rajab was arrested at his home in Beni Jamra, Manama, Bahrain on 2 April 2015. His house was surrounded by some 20 police cars and a number of security forces participated in his arrest. He was presented with a warrant charging him with ‘spreading false news’. Rajab’s arrest was linked to a piece published by the Huffington PostInto Bahrain’s Jaws of Hell, and for tweeting about the welfare of others held at the infamous Jaw Prison that is the subject of the article. He was charged with ‘insulting a statutory body’ and ‘spreading rumours during war time’ and sentenced to six months imprisonment. The ruling was upheld in May by an appeals court.

Following his release, Rajab took to Twitter to thank his supporters:

Happy 2 be back&2 continue my struggle 4 ‪#‎justice‬ ‪#‎HumanRights‬ -thanks 4 your support&solidarity-love u all ‪#‎Bahrain‬

Between 2012 and 2014 Rajab spent two years in prison for taking part in ‘illegal gatherings’. He was released in May 2014.

Whilst we welcome the release of Nabeel Rajab, we remain concerned that he continues to face charges for which he could face a further 15 years in prison. We also continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a state party, including writer and human rights activist Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace. Please join us.

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