Political Prisoner Nabeel Rajab Freed
by Stephen Lendman
Bahrain’s Al Khalifa monarchy rules despotically. Ruthlessly. Extrajudicially. State terror is official policy.
Activists are targeted, arrested, tortured, and imprisoned. Kangaroo court proceedings deny justice.
Nabeel Rajab is one of Bahrain’s best. He’s a prominent human rights leader. A courageous one. Committed for right over wrong.
In 2002, he, current political prisoner Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, and others co-founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).
Its objectives include:
(1) Promoting civil, political, and economic freedom.
(2) Ending racial discrimination.
(3) Disseminating human rights culture.
(4) Supporting and protecting victims’ rights.
Promoting fundamental human and civil rights in Bahrain risks life and limb. Rajab was targeted before.
He was harassed, vilified, beaten, injured, arrested, tortured and detained. Bahraini justice is none at all.
Activists like Rajab know what they face. They challenge Al Khalifa ruthlessness anyway.
On August 16, 2012, Rajab was sentenced to three years in prison. At the time, BCHR condemned it “in the strongest terms.”
He was already serving a three month sentence. For defending fundamental rights. For “libeling the citizens of the town of Muharraq over twitter,” prosecutors said.
Rajab responded, saying “(y)ou can jail me for 3 years or 30 years, but I will not back down or retreat.”
No matter the personal cost. He promised continued support for democratic values. He called them too important to be denied.
“I think we have to pay a much higher price than what normally people pay for freedom and democracy because you will not hear much about what’s going on here, as much as you will hear things happening in different countries,” he explained.
On March 20, 2011, masked security forces dragged him from his home. They did so after midnight. They blindfolded and handcuffed him.
They severely beat him. He was attacked before. He was interrogated about statements he made. His family was threatened.
His children were harassed in school. His wife was sacked from her job.
He was banned from travel for several months. He was denied permission to participate in human rights conferences and meetings.
He was imprisoned for “illegal practices, inciting illegal assemblies, and organizing unlicensed demonstrations through social media websites.”
He championed justice. Fundamental human and civil rights. Bahraini authorities criminalized them. King Hamad calls peaceful protests “foreign plots.”
Rajab said Washington supports Bahraini despotism. Including “attacks against human rights defenders,” he explained. Before his arrest, he said:
“Given that Bahrain in essence lacks a judiciary system that is independent and/or fair, and is far from being in line with international standards of a fair trial, I have decided to boycott the trial against myself.”
“The judiciary system in Bahrain, today, is a tool used against human rights defenders and people calling for democracy and justice.”
He explained two formative incidents. They changed him. They inspired his human rights advocacy.
“Two events affected me most,” he said. “(O)ne when a colleague dropped himself from second floor to escape under-covered police who stormed school.”
“The second incident was when a dear teacher was arrested. That is when my voice started to rise and become annoying.”
“I was caught while writing apolitical human rights statements on school walls and was given the choice to either be submitted to police or to switch schools.”
“I was the top student back then, but I choose to switch to Sheikh Abdul Aziz school.” In college he challenged all forms of injustice.
Later he got involved in national campaigns. In 1999, he co-founded the Bahrain Human Rights Society. In 2002, BCHR followed.
It supports “a prosperous democratic country free of discrimination and other violations of human rights.”
It “encourage(s) and support(s) individuals and groups to be proactive in the protection of their own and others’ rights.”
It “struggle(s) to promote democracy and human rights in accordance with international norms.”
Rajab won numerous human rights awards. For wanting Bahrainis to live free. For championing fundamental democratic rights.
He’s now free. After serving two years of his three-year sentence. BCHR welcomed him back.
“His release comes at a time when thousands of others continue to be imprisoned and targeted on trumped up charges,” it said.
“It is important to note that (he’s) not being released as a gesture of goodwill, but rather because he served the full length of his arbitrary detention sentence.”
On December 11, 2012, Bahrain’s Court of Appeal reduced his sentence to two years. In prison, he was tortured. He was ill-treated.
He was subjected to “dire conditions,” said BCHR. He was mostly isolated in solitary confinement. Almost naked, he said.
RT International interviewed Rajab. “After two years in prison, I see Bahrain’s political environment as more difficult and still without a roadmap for real reforms,” he said.
“I was kept separate in a separate building for two years, just to make sure that I did not connect with the other prisoners,” he added.
“There were very few people who were with me in that separate building.”
“They were people who did not speak my language or people who were charged with criminal charges, which was completely different from what I was charged with.”
He’ll keep fighting for justice, he stressed.
“I know this is the cost of the struggle in this part of the world and I am planning to continue my struggle, no matter how much is the cost, knowing that all the countries have freedom and democracy today,” he said.
“Maybe some people have to pay this cost in order to achieve democracy and human rights and I am one of many people in this country who is willing to pay this cost for my nation and my second generation to have democracy, justice and human rights.”
He was only tortured once, he said. Emotionally things were tougher. Others were less fortunate, he explained.
“I have witnessed other people being tortured in front of my eyes.”
“I have seen people being tortured by the police and I made a lot of noise while I was there.”
“I sent a complaint to the United Nations and they finally told me that they are looking into those accusations.”
He said Bahraini political prisoners get little or no attention.
“We have been ignored by the international community because Bahrain is with the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, which has a lot of influence in the west,” he said.
The struggle for justice in Bahrain continues. Achieving it is distant. It’s a long ways off, Rajab stressed.
“When I was sent to jail, there was no violence. I tweeted that I have said to the government that if you take peaceful people like me, who advocate peaceful gatherings and put them in jail, then you will face people who commit violence.”
“All human rights activists in Bahrain are behind bars and this is why you see such violence.”
Achieving real Bahraini democracy is his fundamental goal.
“All the aims which I am holding and the values that I am fighting for, it keeps me going, knowing that a lot of people are waiting for me, a lot of people need me to be out, need me to be focused and strong,” he said.
“I will be there for my people.”
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) called his detention arbitrary.
It contravened articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and articles 9, paragraph 1, 14, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it said.
Horrific human rights abuses occur daily. Bahraini officials are rewarded for committing them.
In July 2013, evidence proving Lt-Colonel Mubarak bin Huwail’s guilt was dismissed.
Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa responded saying: “Thank you for your good work.”
Bahrain’s culture of impunity shows what human rights champions face. Rajab challenged this system courageously. He’s not about to quit now.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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