The Supreme Court of Bahrain confirmed this Monday. Opponent Nabil Rajab is sentenced to five years in prison for denouncing the torture practiced in Bahrain’s prisons and the consequences of the war in Yemen led by Saudi Arabia. Back on our meeting with this activist.
February 2011, Manama, capital of Bahrain, is shaken by demonstrations. Elsewhere, the wind of the Arab Spring is blowing over Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Syria.
In Bahrain, the protesters are demanding more rights from the Sunni monarchy of the Al Khalifa, which governs this small, Shiite-majority kingdom of 1.3 million people and monopolizes power. A large part of the population goes to the streets to demand a constitutional monarchy.
Some see Iran’s hand behind the demonstrations. The Saudi ally does not intend to let his neighbor sink into the crisis that could spread to the Wahhabi kingdom: he then sends tanks with the approval of the Gulf Cooperation Council to help the Sunni camp to resume control of his country by force. The international community is satisfied with a shy conviction like that of the United States (Bahrain hosts the headquarters of the Fifth US Fleet).
“People calling for democracy are not criminals”
Nabil Rajab is a key figure for all journalists covering the events in Bahrain. His resume says a lot about his commitment: President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights , Founding Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights , Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) .
We met Nabil Rajab in March 2011 at his home in the suburbs of Manama. He took us to the nearest protesters. In his car he told us, “There is no danger here, people are protesting for human rights, and I am angry to see the double game of America, the English, the Europeans. They have some politics in Libya and another in the Gulf. “
Is it because of oil?
“Respect for human rights means respect for human rights, be it in Bahrain, Syria or Iran, I know that oil and other interests are important. who call for democracy are not criminals, and should not be greeted by tanks and weapons of war. “
“Thousands of Bahrainis in prison for criticizing the government”
Quiet and calm, Nabil Rajab knew he was taking risks by going to the demonstrations and could be stopped at any time by the security forces deployed en masse in Manama, the capital. “They can attack us at the roadblocks if they know we are activists, especially since I’m on their blacklist … The army and the National Guard are here”
During this period, his home is attacked. He also receives many death threats.
A year later, Nabil Rajab is arrested. He is sentenced to two years in prison . He was released in June 2014 before being arrested again in October of the same year. He will spend a month in pretrial detention.
New arrest in April 2015: he spent four months in prison. He is released by Royal Decree for health reasons.
In June 2016, he is once again apprehended at his home and sentenced to two years in prison for “spreading false news, allegations and rumors about the internal situation of the kingdom, likely to undermine the prestige and reputation of this one. this”.
From his cell, he writes a column published in the World in which he denounces the participation of his country in the intervention in Yemen.
“What’s better than the New Year to hide bad news?”
Last February, he was sentenced to five years in prison for reporting on Twitter the torture of detainees in Jaw Prison where he is currently. He also denounces the assassination of civilians in Yemen by the coalition led by Saudi Arabia. His conviction is confirmed on appeal in June 2018. He then filed a final appeal before the Court of Cassation examined on Monday and confirmed by the Supreme Court of Bahrain.
For his son Adam, this date of December 31 was not chosen at random as he wrote in a letter:
“We think the timing is deliberate, because what better than a New Year’s Eve to hide bad news? My father will […] stay in prison until 2023 after having already spent two years behind the scenes. My father has dared to speak and raise his voice in a difficult time, he is seeking peace, he is a committed human rights defender who is paying a high price, his call to end the war in Yemen is deeply rooted in his conviction that conflicts create problems, not solutions “.
Two visits a month
Since 2011, the voices of opponents of Bahrain are stifled, the opposition parties banned by the power. Some of their leaders have been stripped of their nationality. The repression has muzzled all free political expression. Like other human rights defenders who serve long prison terms like Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and Naji Fateel, Nabil Rajab was not allowed to leave the country.
Today, he is imprisoned with convicted terrorists, some of whom are members of the Islamic State group. According to the FIDH, which has just co-signed a statement calling for his release and the abandonment of the charges against him, his state of health is worrying. He is only allowed two visits a month. He is forbidden to read books and has access to newspapers only every ten days. In exile in Lebanon, his cousin Maytham Al Salman testifies to his fragile state of health:
Nabil Rajab is continually intimidated, harassed, targeted even in prison. He is in an unstable state of health and is not receiving treatment.
Nabil Rajab’s cousin, jailed in Bahrain, warns about his health
The Bahraini government is trying to hit Nabil emotionally and psychologically as much as he can. There is a risk that the government will increase its sentence at its December 31 trial if the international community does not intervene.
In June 2018, Nabil Rajab was named honorary citizen of the City of Paris.
Today, his family is demanding that the international community put pressure on Bahrain to secure his release.