103 MEPs call for dropping the charges against Nabeel Rajab

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103 Members of the European Parliament, around 15% of the total number of the European chamber, support the call for the charges against Nabeel Rajab to be dropped.

Addendum January 2015: Since this letter was first published, the situation has continued to deteriorate in Bahrain. Sheikh Ali Salman, General Secretary of the Al-Wefaq, the last opposition political party, was detained on 28 December and is charged with inciting hatred against the government. Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months for insulting the King, though she remains on bail currently. As Nabeel Rajab’s 20 January trial approaches, the Bahraini government appears to be silencing all its major critics.

Brussels, 28 October 2014

We, the undersigned Members of the European Parliament, call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab — President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and member of the Human Rights Watch’s Advisory Board.

We believe that his arrest, interrogation and arbitrary detention in relation to an offending tweet are meant as a form of reprisal against Mr. Rajab for his recent advocacy on behalf of human rights in Bahrain. His advocacy recently included speaking before the Human Rights Subcommittee (DROI) of the European Parliament, and participating in the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Less than 24 hours after completing his human rights advocacy mission in Europe, the Bahraini government summoned Mr. Rajab to the Central Investigations Directorate’s (CID) Cyber Crimes Unit for interrogation, whereupon security forces arrested and interrogated him for a number of hours in relation to a tweet he published while abroad. After 19 days in pre-trial detention, Mr. Rajab’s court proceedings began to hear opening arguments on 19 October. The court postponed any decision or sentencing a first time until Wednesday 29 October, then a second time until 2nd November.
On that date, the Court decided to provisionally release Mr. Rajab until the next hearing scheduled on 20 January 2015. However Mr. Rajab has been baned from leaving Bahrain and still faces up to six years prison for “insulting a public institution and the army” via Twitter, pursuant to Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code.

Given the Bahrain government’s history of targeted reprisals of arbitrary detention and torture against Mr. Rajab, including a two-year arbitrary detention completed in May 2014, we are deeply concerned that Mr. Rajab’s renewed arbitrary detention in relation to his free expression is likewise meant as a form of reprisal for his human rights advocacy at EU and UN levels.

In addition to the recent detention of Mr. Rajab, the Bahraini government has also reignited its campaign against the Bahraini-Danish citizens and human rights defenders of the al-Khawaja family. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja continues to serve his arbitrary life sentence in Bahrain after peacefully calling for reforms during the 2011 popular protest movement in the country. His daughter Zainab al-Khawaja — herself a prominent human rights activist who is currently eight months pregnant — now faces fresh charges of insulting the king of Bahrain, a crime that can carry a sentence of seven years imprisonment and a fine up to BD 10,000 (€20,900). Her trial is set to resume on Thursday 20 October.

In February of this year, the European Parliament unanimously passed an Urgency Resolution recognizing that “the Bahraini authorities continue to violate and restrict the rights […] of individuals to peaceful protest, freedom of expression and digital freedom, [and that] human rights activists face ongoing systematic targeting, harassment and detention.” The Resolution also called for “the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, political activists, journalists, human rights defenders and peaceful protesters, including Nabeel Rajab [...]”.

We therefore urge the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Member States to publicly condemn the ongoing violations of the basic human rights of free expression in Bahrain, and call for the release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and other human rights defenders targeted in Bahrain. We further hope that Member States will continue to call on the Government of Bahrain to ensure that all civil society organizations and human rights defenders in the kingdom are able to conduct their work without fear of retaliation or reprisal. Finally, we again urge the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs to stress the European Parliament’s calls for imposing targeted restrictive measures (visa bans and asset freezes) against those individuals responsible for, and involved in, the human rights abuses (as documented by the BICI report or by the Special Procedures of the United Nations).

Yours sincerely,

(See list of signatories)

Ms. Marina Albiol Guzmán, GUE, Spain
Ms. Martina Anderson, GUE, Ireland
Mr. Eric Andrieu, S&D, France
Ms. Margrete Auken, Greens/EFA, Denmark
Mr. Petras Austrevicius, ALDE, Lithuania
Mr. Brando Benifei, S&D, Italy
Ms. Malin Björk, GUE, Sweden
Mr. José Bové, Greens/EFA, France
Ms. Lynn Boylan, GUE, Ireland
Mr. Paul Brannen, S&D, UK
Mr. Klaus Buchner, Greens/EFA, Germany
Ms. Soledad Cabezon Ruiz, S&D, Spain
Mr. Nicola Caputo, S&D, Italy
Mr. Matt Carthy, GUE, Ireland
Mr. Fabio Massimo Castaldo, EFD, Italy
Ms. Nessa Childers, S&D, Ireland
Ms. Bodil Ceballos, Greens/EFA, Sweden
Mr. Ignazio Corrao, EFD, Italy
Mr. Javier Couso Permuy, GUE, Spain
Mr. Dennis De Jong, GUE, The Netherlands
Ms. Karima Delli, Greens/EFA, France
Mr. Mark Demesmaeker, ECR, Belgium
Ms. Anneliese Dodds, S&D, UK
Mr. Pascal Durand, Greens/EFA, France
Ms. Jill Evans, Greens/EFA, UK
Ms. Tanja Fajon, S&D, Slovenia
Mr. Jose Inacio Faria, ALDE, Portugal
Mr. Doru Frunzulică, S&D, Romania
Mr. Michael Gahler, EPP, Germany
Ms. Eider Gardiazabal Rubial, S&D, Spain
Ms. Ana Gomes, S&D, Portugal
Ms. Theresa Griffin, S&D, UK
Mr. Enrique Guerrero, S&D, Spain
Ms. Jytte Guteland, S&D, Sweden
Ms Marian Harkin, ALDE, Ireland
Ms. Heidi Hautala, Greens/EFA, Finland
Ms. Maria Heubuch, Greens/EFA, Germany
Ms. Mary Honeyball, S&D, UK
Mr. Richard Howitt, S&D, UK
Mr. Yannick Jadot, Greens/EFA, France
Ms. Rina Ronja Kari, GUE, Denmark
Ms. Jude Kirton-Darling, S&D, UK
Mr. Jeppe Kofod, S&D, Denmark
Ms. Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, S&D, Finland
Ms. Jean Lambert, Greens/EFA, UK
Mr. Philippe Lamberts, Greens/EFA, Germany
Mr. Jörg Leichtfried, S&D, Austria
Ms. Barbara Lochbihler, Greens/EFA, Germany
Mr. Javi Lopez, S&D, Spain
Mr. Juan Fernando López Aguilar, S&D, Spain
Ms. Ulrike Lunacek, Greens/EFA, Austria
Mr. António Marinho e Pinto, ALDE, Portugal
Ms. Linda McAvan, S&D, UK
Mr. David Martin, S&D, UK
Mr. Edouard Martin, S&D, France
Ms. Barbara Matera, EPP, Italy
Mr. Emmanuel Maurel, S&D, France
Mr. Fernando Maura Barandiaran, ALDE, Spain
Ms. Anne-Marie Mineur, GUE, Netherlands
Mr. Claude Moraes, S&D, UK
Ms. Alessia Mosca, S&D, Italy
Mr. Norbert Neuser, S&D, Germany
Ms. Angelika Niebler, EPP, Germany
Ms. Maria Noichl, S&D, Germany
Ms. Liadh Ní Ríada, GUE, Ireland
Mr. Pier Antonio Panzeri, S&D, Italy
Mr. Gilles Pargneaux, S&D, France
Mr. Vincent Peillon, S&D, France
Ms. Sirpa Pietikäinen, EPP, Finland
Ms. Kati Piri, S&D, Netherlands
Mr. Gianni Pittella, S&D, Italy
Ms. Soraya Post, S&D, Sweden
Mr. Gutiérrez Prieto, S&D, Spain
Mr. Laurentiu Rebega, S&D, Romania
Mr. Michel Reimon, Greens/EFA, Austria
Ms. Christine Revault d’Allonnes-Bonnefoy, S&D, France
Ms. Michèle Rivasi, Greens/EFA, France
Mr. Jens Rohde, ALDE, Denmark
Ms. Viriginie Rozière, S&D, France
Ms. Sofia Sakorafa, GUE, Greece
Ms. Judith Sargentini, Greens/EFA, The Netherlands
Ms. Marietje Schaake, ALDE, The Netherlands
Ms. Christel Schaldemose, S&D, Denmark
Mr. Helmut Scholz, GUE, Germany
Ms. Molly Scott Cato, Greens/EFA, UK
Mr. Jordi Sebastià, Greens/EFA, Spain
Ms. Olga Sehnalova, S&D, Czech Republic
Mr. Ricardo Serrão Santos, S&D, Portugal
Mr. Alyn Smith, Greens/EFA, UK
Mr. Bart Staes, Greens/EFA, Belgium
Mr. Keith Taylor, Greens/EFA, UK
Ms. Ruža Tomašić, ECR, Croatia
Ms. Helga Truepel, Greens/EFA, Germany
Mr. Claude Turmes, Greens/EFA, Luxembourg
Mr. Ivo Vajgl, ALDE, Slovenia
Ms. Elena Valenciano, S&D, Spain
Mr. Marco Valli, EFD, Italy
Ms. Monika Vana, Greens/EFA, Austria
Ms. Julie Ward, S&D, UK
Ms. Renate Weber, ALDE, Romania
Mr. Josef Weidenholzer, S&D, Austria
Mr. Bogdan Wenta, EPP, Poland

Currently, 103 Members of the European Parliament support this call.


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