Leading Bahrain rights activist Nabeel Rajab released from prison

Leading Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab released from prison
3 min read
09 June, 2020
Nabeel Rajab, who was imprisoned for a tweet he sent, has been allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence outside of prison.
Nabeel Rajab pictured with his family after leaving prison [Twitter]
Bahraini authorities released the human rights activist Nabeel Rajab from prison on Tuesday, after a court permitted him to serve the remainder of his sentence non-custodially.

"The court has finally agreed to grant Nabeel Rajab an alternative sentence," Rajeeb's lawyer Mohamed Al-Jishi told Reuters.

Rajab's family also confirmed the news, posting a picture of the family together for the first time since 2016.

Rajab was pictured smiling and wearing a garland of white roses around his neck.

"Great news that Nabeel has been released and is home with his family, he should have never been imprisoned to begin with," leading human rights defender from Bahrain Maryam Al-Khawaja told The New Arab.

"Especially during a pandemic, prisoners like my father and so many others must be released, instead of subjecting them to heightened risk of contracting Covid-19," she added, referring to her father Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a pro-democracy activist who has been behind bars since 2011.

Maryam al-Khawaja added that there are cases of coronavirus in Jau prison where Rajab was being held, although authorities have not confirmed this. Rajab has health conditions that put him at high risk of complications from the virus.

Bahrain passed a law in 2018 that permitted the courts to convert prison terms into non-custodial sentences. 

Authorities did not confirm what Rajeeb's alternative sentence would consist of, but possibilities include community service, electronic monitoring, and repairing criminal damage.

Rajab is the first high-profile activist to be released under the new law, however, he is likely to remain subject to strict controls despite being out of prison.

Rajab, a key activist in Bahrain's 2011 uprisings, was sentenced in 2018 to five years in jail for tweeting criticism of the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

He was first arrested in 2016, with no reason being given, and later sentenced in 2017 to two years in prison for spreading "false news".

Bahrain has resisted calls from the international community to release Rajab on several occasions in recent years.

Most recently there was calls for the activist to be freed during the Covid-19 outbreak, despite Rajab's health conditions.

Rajab lost his final appeal on 31 December 2019 against his jail term after Bahrain's supreme court, whose verdicts are final, upheld his sentence.

He was convicted of endangering the Saudi-led military campaign, which includes Bahrain, in Yemen and publicly offending a foreign country, a reference to Saudi Arabia. 

Bahrain is part of a Saudi-led bloc that severed ties with Qatar in 2017 over accusations of supporting extremism and being too close to regional rival Iran, charges Doha has vehemently denied.

Bahrain later announced it would jail anyone in the kingdom who expressed sympathy for Qatar over the sanctions and blockade.

Maryam Al-Khawaja said that there must be systemic change in Bahrain.

"Releasing prisoners of conscience is crucial, but if the judiciary system that criminalises basic freedoms and rights is not changed, then there's no guarantee that Nabeel and others will not end up back in prison," she added.

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