Dubai (AFP) – Rights groups urged Bahrain’s Western allies on Friday to pressure the kingdom to drop charges against prominent activist Nabeel Rajab, on trial over tweets deemed insulting to public institutions.
Rajab, a member of Bahrain’s Shiite majority which has held protests against the Gulf kingdom’s Sunni rulers since 2011, was released from custody in November and will stand trial on January 20.
“Bahrain’s allies including the United Kingdom, Germany, France and other European countries should publicly call on Manama to drop charges against the human rights advocate Nabeel Rajab,” Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) said.
Rajab was arrested in October after posting comments on Twitter about the interior and defence ministries. In one of his tweets, Rajab charged that many Bahrainis fighting with extremists in Syria were former security forces personnel who had developed extremist views while in service. Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet, is among the countries that have joined the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. “This is an open-and-shut freedom of expression case,” said HRW deputy MENA director Joe Stork.
“Due process is not the issue here – Nabeel Rajab should never have been charged in the first place.”
If convicted, Rajab could face six years in prison, according to the groups.