Bahraini Political Scientist Nabeel Rajab Released from Prison
June 16, 2020
On June 9, 2020, Bahraini political scientist Nabeel Rajab was released from Jaw prison after serving two years of his five-year sentence. (He had been in prison since 2016, serving a previously imposed two-year sentence.) Mr. Rajab was released under a 2017 law allowing prisoners who have served at least half their sentences to serve the remainder in a non-custodial setting. The precise nature of his alternative sentence is not yet clear, but may consist of measures such as electronic surveillance.
Mr. Rajab, who has a degree in political science from University of Pune, is also a prominent human rights defender. He is co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and was a leader in Bahrain’s 2011 pro-democracy movement. As a result of his longtime human rights activism, he has been repeatedly targeted by the Bahraini government, including numerous imprisonments, for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. In 2018, Mr. Rajab was convicted of “offending a foreign country” and “offending public authorities” and sentenced to five years in prison. These charges are believed to relate to social media posts by Mr. Rajab that were critical of the Bahraini government. At the time of his conviction, he was already serving a two-year sentence for “disseminating false news”, among other charges. His appeals of both convictions were denied. Amnesty International considered Mr. Rajab to be a prisoner of conscience detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.
During his imprisonment, Mr. Rajab was subjected to ill-treatment, including being held in solitary confinement and denied adequate medical care, as a result of which his health seriously deteriorated. He developed high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat and was hospitalized several times for chest pain and other heart-related problems.