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Bahraini Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab Arrested Again for Tweets

Nabeel Rajab. Photo by Conor McCabe via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Nabeel Rajab. Photo by Conor McCabe via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Leading Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was arrested at his home in Bani Jamra today April 2, 2015, allegedly over messages he sent on Twitter concerning the welfare of individuals incarcerated in Bahrain's Jaw Prison.

A tweet issued by the Ministry of Interior confirmed the arrest, saying:

Nabeel Rajab has been arrested after publishing information that can harm civil harmony and for insulting a statutory body in violation of the law. Ongoing legal proceedings are continuing

On his Twitter account, Rajab told his 261K followers what was happening:

A friend, who is managing his account, later tweeted:

In a video made in the moments before he was taken by police, Rajab says he was being arrested for tweets he wrote:

He says:

The issue is Twitter. This is the case once again. But the resistance (makes victory sign) will continue as well as the struggle for human rights. This is just another attempt to suppress the freedom of people in expressing their opinions. Frankly, I am saddened to see scores of those people (gesturing towards the forces that have come to arrest him) surrounding my house, not to arrest a criminal, but to arrest someone who is just expressing his opinion. This shows that the situation is regressing from bad to worse. What is certain is that the struggle for human rights and justice will continue in this country until all violations, and torture and crimes end. All those policeman and all those people will not stop my work or my resistance…

Netizens, among them Rajab, have been actively campaigning for the rights of Jaw prisoners for the past three weeks, following a series of violent altercations between guards and prisoners that have raised suspicions about prisoner abuse at Jaw.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), some prisoners have been prohibited from contacting their families since unrest broke out in the central prison on March 10. HRW reports:

An outbreak of violence on March 10 led the prison authorities to send the security forces into buildings 1, 3, 4, and 6 of the prison. The relatives of the four prisoners said that before March 10 they had received regular calls from the detained men and had been able to visit them.

Government-controlled newspapers have reported that the March 10 unrest was the result of violence by prisoners after an altercation between prison guards and three visitors on March 10. Local rights groups allege, however, that security forces used excessive force against prisoners, many of them held on politically motivated charges, and that poor prison conditions contributed to the unrest.

Writing on Huffington Post, Human Rights First's Brian Dooley shares some details of what may have happened at Jaw prison.

This is the latest in a series of legal actions against Rajab. On March 15, a Bahrain court postponed its verdict in an appeal made by Rajab against a six-month prison sentence until April 15. The case concerns comments he made about ISIS on Twitter. Rajab was initially convicted of “denigrating an official body” in tweets that likened Bahrain's security apparatus to an “incubator” for fighters of the radical group ISIS. The tweet for which he was convicted suggested that Bahrain's security institutions had a number of staff that had joined terrorist groups, including ISIS.

Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights — not recognised as a legal entity by the government — was only released from prison in May 2014 after serving two years for “disrupting public order.” That sentence came after Rajab was arrested for trying to investigate human rights violations that took place during Bahrain's popular uprising in 2011.

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