Bahrain releases renowned activist Nabeel Rajab | News | DW | 09.06.2020
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Bahrain releases renowned activist Nabeel Rajab

The Bahraini activist has played a critical role in bringing to light human rights abuses in Bahrain and the Middle East region. He was sentenced to five years in prison for tweeting criticism of Saudi's war in Yemen.

Bahraini authorities on Tuesday released prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who was sentenced to five years in prison for criticizing Saudi Arabia's brutal war in Yemen on social media.

"Nabeel Rajab, prominent Bahrain human rights defender, has been released," said Aya Majzoub, Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch. "He has been in prison since 2016 for his peaceful criticisms of the government's rights abuses."

Authorities said he would serve the rest of his sentence in a non-custodial setting. Shortly after he was released, he was seen smiling with members of his family.

'Target of persecution'

Rajab's case rose to prominence after he was jailed in 2016 for tweeting criticism of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen and allegations of torture in Bahraini prisons, along with television appearances in which he was critical of Bahrain's government.

That year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention condemned his detention, saying Rajab had been "the target of persecution, including deprivation of liberty, for many years and there is no other explanation for this except that he is exercising his right to express such views and convictions."

"Mr. Rajab's political views and convictions are clearly at the center of the present case and that the authorities have displayed an attitude towards him that can only be characterized as discriminatory," said the panel.

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Pivotal human rights defender

Rajab was a pivotal voice in the quashed 2011 uprising in Bahrain. The protest movement had called for equality and social change in the Shia-majority country run by a Sunni monarchy.

Read more: Opinion: Is the Middle East seeing a new Arab Spring?

He has played a crucial role in challenging human rights abuses in the region. He is the co-founder and president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and helped found the Gulf Center for Human Rights.

He has been arrested several times for his activism, including his involvement in protests during the 2012 Formula 1 race in Bahrain, which controversially went ahead after 2011's was eventually shelved owing to the domestic unrest.

ls/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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