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Alarmed by this new attack on freedom of expression in Bahrain, the Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI), Mr Pier Antonio Panzeri, made the following statement:

"Shortly after the seventh anniversary of the 14 February 2011 protest  movement calling for democratic reform and respect for human rights in Bahrain, the new sentence handed down to Nabeel Rajab is further proof of the ongoing crackdown against civil society and dissidents in Bahrain.

As a reaction to the violent repression of the 2011 protests, the ‘Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’ was established, and its November 2011 report included major reform recommendations, including the recommendation ‘to review convictions and commute sentences of all persons charged with offences involving political expression, not consisting of advocacy of violence, or, as the case may be, to drop outstanding charges against them.’ The Bahraini government committed itself to implementing the recommendations in the report. The new sentence against Nabeel Rajab runs counter to this commitment and violates his right to freedom of expression.

I therefore urge the Bahraini government to follow up on its own commitments, and I reiterate my previous calls on the Bahraini authorities to drop all pending charges against Nabeel Rajab and to release him immediately. As the country prepares itself for parliamentary elections, I call on the authorities to guarantee essential civil and political rights without which the electoral process would be meaningless.

The dissolution of political opposition societies, the criminalisation of dissent, the suspension of independent media, trials of civilians before military courts and the increased imposition of death sentences do not contribute to creating a climate conducive to free and fair elections."

 

Background

On 21 February 2018 the Bahrain High Criminal Court sentenced the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Nabeel Rajab, to five years in prison for criticizing on social media the killing of civilians by Saudi airstrikes in Yemen and torture in a Bahraini prison. The new sentence follows the two-year sentence that Rajab is already serving on other charges related to criticism of the Bahraini authorities in TV interviews.

Throughout the years, Members of the European Parliament have repeatedly expressed their support for Nabeel Rajab