Nabeel Rajab, activist and president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was sentenced to three months behind bars on Monday, for posting a tweet that criticized Bahrain's prime minister, Prince Khalifa bin Sulman al-Khalifa. It is not the first time Rajab has been detained.
The tweet that landed Rajab in jail said: "Khalifa, leave the residents of Al Mahraq, its Sheikhs and its elderly. Everyone knows that you are not popular here, and if there wasn’t a need for money, they wouldn’t have gone out to receive you. When will you step down?" [Translated by The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders]
In June, Bahrain's Public Prosecution Office charged Rajab with “insulting in public," according to The Observatory. On Monday, Rajab was removed from his home by masked security officers. His colleague, Said Yousif Al Muhafda, captured video of the arrest:
This is how Bahrain's official news agency phrased the reasoning behind today's detainment on their website:
"A group of people from Muharraq lodged a complaint against the defendant for tarnishing their reputation and casting doubt on their patriotism”, Chief Prosecutor Nayef Yusuf Mahmoud said. Nabeel Abdulrasool Rajab appeared before the Public Prosecution accused of smearing the people of Muharraq and questioning their patriotism.
But the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said these "complaints" came from several people connected to Bahrain's rulers:
The GCHR [Gulf Center for Human Rights] and Bahrain BCHR [Bahrain Center for Human Rights] have received information that the group of people who have filed the complaint against Nabeel Rajab includes, Adel Falifel, the previous officer of the national security apparatus, who is accused over alleged 'torture on political activists' and directed threats in the recent months against Nabeel and other human rights defenders, and Saleh Bin Isa Bin Hindi, a consultant to the King of Bahrain, besides some former security officers.
The GCHR and BCHR strongly believe that the government of Bahrain is trying to make this looks like a case filed by the people against Nabeel Rajab. However, it is clear that those who filed the complaint are indeed part or affiliated with the government. This blatant attempt by the authorities in Bahrain is designed to distort Nabeel Rajab from his legitimate human rights work using on this occasion the government retired and current employees to accomplish this task.
On Monday, Rajab's many followers demanded his release on Twitter, using the hashtag #FreeNabeel.
The man Rajab is now behind bars for insulting, Prince Khalifa bin Sulman al-Khalifa, has led Bahrain's government since 1971. He is the world’s longest-serving unelected prime minister.