Human Rights Watch urges release of Bahraini activist

Published April 3rd, 2015 - 12:57 GMT

Human Rights Watch has called on Bahraini authorities to immediately release human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, and drop all charges that violate his right to freedom of expression.

The New York-based HRW said in a statement on Friday that the arrest warrant presented to the 51-year-old Bahraini opposition leader is related to his tweets about the notorious Jaw Prison, and his accusation that prisoners were exposed to torture.

“Bahraini authorities should be investigating these allegations of torture in Jaw Prison, not arresting people who raise concerns about it,” said Joe Stork, who serves as deputy director for HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division, who added, “Bahrain’s allies, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, should call for Rajab’s release without delay.”

Bahraini regime forces arrested Rajab on Thursday. The prominent activist said in a video posted on YouTube after his arrest that he was a victim of an “attempt by the authorities to deprive me of my right to free expression.”

Rajab, the director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was sentenced in January to six months in prison for posting tweets deemed critical of the Al Khalifa regime. He was later freed on bail, pending an appeal scheduled for April 15 on the six-month prison term.

The HRW has blasted the Bahraini regime over the conditions at Jaw Prison, calling on authorities to allow prisoners to contact their families. The rights group said in a statement on its website on Thursday that a number of prisoners have not contacted their families since a protest at the jail last month.

The body said the relatives of four inmates have spoken to HRW representatives, adding that they have not received any phone calls from their loved ones at the prison and have been told by police and prison officials that they cannot pay visits. The rights group said credible sources have reported that the number of these inmates who have not been in contact with their relatives may be as high as 80.

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations on the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa family to relinquish power.

Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds of others injured and arrested in the ongoing crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.

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