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Bahrain Arrests Rights Activist Over Tweets About Torture

APRIL 3, 2015



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    One of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights activists, Nabeel Rajab, was arrested on Thursday for posting critical remarks about the government on Twitter.

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    The special forces are all around my house and they want me to go out

    — Nabeel Rajab (@NABEELRAJAB) April 2, 2015

    It was the third time that Mr. Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been detained for posting criticism of the monarchy since a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 2011.

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    Nabeel Rajab Arrested for Posting Inciteful Language to Disrupt Civil Peace http://t.co/aSVOu42Urr

    — Ministry of Interior (@moi_bahrain) April 2, 2015

    After reading the arrest warrant presented to him at his home on Thursday, Mr. Rajab made a defiant statement into a video camera held by his son, Adam. “My case is related to Twitter,” he said. “This is another attempt to suppress the people’s right to freely express their opinions.”

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    Subtitled video of a statement by the Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab during his arrest on Thursday. Bahrain Center for Human Rights, via YouTube

    Before he was taken into custody by a group of at least 17 officers, Mr. Rajab added that he was sorry to see so many policemen gathered around his house “not to arrest a criminal, but to arrest someone who expresses his opinion.”

    He was jailed in 2012 for posting a critical gibe about Bahrain’s prime minister on Twitter. Last year, he was arrested for posting messages about a former member of the nation’s security forces who had boasted about joining the Islamic State militant group in Syria. He was convicted both times, spent two years in prison, and was out on bail pending an appeal in the 2014 case.

    According to Mr. Rajab’s colleague Said Yousif al-Muhafdah, the new charges relate to accusations by Mr. Rajab that Bahrain tortured inmates in Jaw Prison.

    In March, Mr. Rajab shared images of a former prisoner’s wounds on Twitter.

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    I visited a young man who was just released from prison - the pictures will tell you how they were treated #Bahrain pic.twitter.com/IHXZXIkyh4

    — Nabeel Rajab (@NABEELRAJAB) March 17, 2015

    Last week, he posted a link to an opinion article he wrote for Huffington Post on what he said was the use of excessive force to punish inmates who had taken part in a protest inside Jaw Prison.

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    My latest piece: Into #Bahrain's Jaws of Hell http://t.co/I93cnjspwq via @HuffPostUK

    — Nabeel Rajab (@NABEELRAJAB) March 27, 2015

    In his Huffington Post op-ed article, Mr. Rajab wrote:

    Jaw is facing a crisis. On 10 March there was a protest in the prison. A family at the visitation centre were told their son was barred from visits. There was an altercation with the inmate’s sister, where a police officer apparently hit her. The inmates in their visitation lobby were all taken back to the main prison buildings, where outrage sparked action.

    Some prisoners began barricading their cells in protest. The authorities retaliated by locking the buildings from the outside and calling in reinforcements. Hundreds of police swarmed the prison. Buildings 1, 3, 4 and 6 — the prison is made up of ten — were subjected to a siege situation. The police broke through the barricades and flushed the inmates out with teargas. They marched the inmates out into the courtyards, where every one of them was beaten and humiliated by the police. The forces took shifts terrorising the inmates, passing the baton between Bahraini police and Jordanian units. The inmates were shot at with shotguns and sound grenades, aimed at their bodies. Inmates were forced to address the officers as ‘master’, beaten if they asked to be taken to the toilet (where they were given 30 seconds to relieve themselves), beaten during meals, and forced to insult their families or face more beatings.


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    “We have witness testimony and photographic evidence showing that human rights abuses are being carried out in Jaw,” Mr. Muhafdah of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said on Thursday. “The violations are undeniable, yet rather than address the truth, they are calling Nabeel a liar and a criminal.”

    Mr. Rajab’s arrest came just two days after Bahrain’s interior minister assured a delegation of visitors from the United States Congress that he was enacting a series of reforms to ensure the “human rights and freedoms” of citizens would be protected.

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    HE Interior Minister Receives US Congress Delegation http://t.co/TcAgq7qU1k

    — Ministry of Interior (@moi_bahrain) March 31, 2015

    A ministry news release on the meeting noted that John Timoney — an American adviser who was once a senior officer in New York, and later served as the police chief of Miami — was also present for the briefing of the Congressional delegation.

    Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch said in a statement: “Bahraini authorities should be investigating these allegations of torture in Jaw Prison, not arresting people who raise concerns about it. Bahrain’s allies, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, should call for Rajab’s release without delay.”

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    .@hrw - #Bahrain should investigate torture allegations at Jaw prison, not arrest messenger @nabeelrajab https://t.co/P5Sjse9Eln

    — Sarah Leah Whitson (@sarahleah1) April 3, 2015

    Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the jailed founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, reported from prison on Friday that he could hear screams from fellow prisoners, according to his daughter Maryam, an expatriate activist.

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    Day after @nabeelrajab arrested 4 tweeting abt it, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja called, said he can hear screams of #torture in bldg 10 #Bahrain

    — Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) April 3, 2015
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    #PT As soon as Alkhawaja spoke about the #torture, line was cut, every time he called back, line was cut again. #Bahrain

    — Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) April 3, 2015

    Bahrain’s military is taking part in the Saudi-led offensive against Houthi rebels in Yemen, partly motivated by fears of Iranian support for that group.

    The war in Yemen touches on sensitive issues for the monarchy that rules Bahrain, which is drawn from the country’s Sunni Muslim minority and has portrayed calls for democracy by the Shiite Muslim majority as part of a sectarian plot sponsored by Iran.

    Last week, Bahrain’s police force announced the arrest of an opposition politician, Fadhel Abbas, and an associate for supposedly disturbing the peace with a statement posted on Twitter that condemned the bombing of Yemen as “flagarent aggression” that violated international law.

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    2 persons arrested for exploiting situation in Yemen to disrupt the peace and endanger security and civil order #Bahrain

    — Ministry of Interior (@moi_bahrain) March 26, 2015
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    Not a joke. In #Bahrain you get arrested for tweeting criticism of the Saudi bombing of Yemen. Ask @FadhelAbbasMahd http://t.co/tHLaKhMPpt

    — Chan'ad Bahraini (@chanadbh) March 30, 2015

    Protesters in Bahrain on Friday denounced the military intervention in Yemen, holding up posters of Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the rebel leader who comes from the Zaydi sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

    Angry protest now in #Bahrain against the war in #yemen & the protesters condemning #saudi crimes against civilians pic.twitter.com/BnnxeYfyTR

    — S.Yousif Almuhafdah (@SAIDYOUSIF) April 3, 2015


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