Bahrain: warning over Nabeel Rajab protest planned for tomorrow

‘Not only is Nabeel Rajab unfairly imprisoned, the authorities are now trying to silence his supporters and family’ - Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui

The Bahraini authorities must respect freedom of expression and assembly during a week of demonstrations planned to protest against the imprisonment of the human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, said Amnesty International this evening.

Rajab, who Amnesty has adopted as a prisoner of conscience, was imprisoned for three years last August for calling for and participating in “illegal gatherings”. In December his sentence was reduced to two years.

Organisers of the “Don’t forget Nabeel Rajab” campaign sought official permission to demonstrate tomorrow but had their application rejected by the authorities. Despite fears of excessive use of force by the security forces to disperse the protest, organisers still plan to go ahead. Organisers of rallies in Bahrain have told Amnesty that they have submitted their requests in advance to the head of Public Security only to have their applications rejected - with disturbance to traffic given as one of the main reasons by the authorities.

Amnesty is reiterating its call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release Nabeel Rajab and other prisoners of conscience in the country.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

“The authorities cannot use the excuse that demonstrations are not officially authorised to quell protest.

“The Bahraini authorities need to come up with alternatives not bans. In light of tomorrow’s planned demonstration, security forces must refrain from excessive use of force or carrying out arbitrary arrests.

“The government of Bahrain has demonstrated time and again its disregard for basic human rights. Not only is Nabeel Rajab unfairly imprisoned, the authorities are now trying to silence his supporters and family.”

This latest ban is part of a broader pattern of aggressive handling of protests by the Bahraini authorities which has resulted in unlawful killings and arbitrary detention. In February, the security forces opened fire on demonstrators who had been calling for greater freedoms, resulting in the death of 16-year-old Hussein Ahmad al-Jazairi - who was shot at close range during a protest close to Daih village - and 20-year-old Mahmoud ‘Issa Mohammed, who was hit in the head with a tear gas canister during protests in Nabeh Saleh village.
 

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