The UN human rights office called for his release:
“We urge the Government of Bahrain to stop criminalizing dissenting voices… We call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and to ensure that all Bahrainis are able to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression without fear of arbitrary detention”
Nabeel Rajab, a 51-year-old prominent Bahraini opposition leader and the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, is facing trial over criticising Saudi involvement in Yemen on Twitter. Rajab convicted of charges of “spreading false news and rumors in time of war”, “insulting foreign countries” and “insulting publicly the interior ministry”. On February 21, he was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
Rajab was first arrested over the tweets in April 2015 and released a few months later by royal pardon. However, the cases were not closed and Rajab was arrested again over them on June 13, 2016.
Among the tweets that have led to Rajab’s conviction, was the tweet which read: “we have the right to say no to the war in #Yemen and should struggle for peace and security but not bloodshed #Sanaa”. Rajab’s official Twitter account, which is currently run by volunteers, has reported that since his arrest he has been taken to hospital on one occasion for heart problems after an extended stay in solitary confinement.
This is not the first time Rajab has been arrested over speaking out against injustices. Between 2012 and 2014, Rajab served time in prison for organising and participating in illegal protests.
Rajab’s struggles and work have been internationally recognised throughout his advocacy for human rights in Bahrain. In 2011, Rajab was awarded a Democracy Award from the Woodrow Wilson Center, and after this release from jail in 2014, he toured through Europe, visiting the UNHRC in Geneva and the European Parliament in Brussels.
According to Freedom House’s Freedom of the Net report for the year 2018, Bahrain is marked as ‘Not Free’. Social media apps are blocked, political and social content is being blocked and bloggers are arrested for speaking out online. Despite a slight improvement of Internet freedom in 2018, human rights defenders, journalists and opposition websites are still being censored and activists are subjected to fear of being arrested over social media posts. Freedom House reports that hundreds of websites remain blocked, mostly those related to regional politics and criticism of the royal family.