A European Commission spokesperson on Thursday called for the release of prominent Bahraini human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, who has recently received five additional years in jail for comments posted on social media.
Earlier on, Bahrain’s High Criminal Court sentenced Nabeel Rajab to five additional years in prison for comments posted on social media. This verdict follows the one which had already been handed down in January. Other cases against him are still pending, the European Commission spokesperson’s statement said.
“The case of Mr Rajab has become a symbol for human rights defenders and respect of freedom of speech, in Bahrain and beyond. This new sentence, as well as the open cases against Mr Rajab, run counter to the Government of Bahrain’s own commitments as the country prepares itself for new parliamentary elections,” the statement added.
It noted that the “European Union once again reiterates its call to grant Mr Rajab’s release, including on humanitarian grounds due to his deteriorating health condition, and seizes this opportunity to encourage all parties in Bahrain to contribute to resume dialogue with a view to relaunch a process of national reconciliation in a peaceful and constructive manner.”
Prominent rights groups have strongly censured Bahrain for handing down the five-year jail term to Rajab for criticizing the regimes in Manama and Saudi Arabia, a ruling which also sparked angry public protests at home.
“The new prison sentence for Nabeel Rajab is only the latest chapter in years of persecution and efforts to silence an activist solely for his efforts to sound the alarm on human rights abuses,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday.
“Rajab should never have faced such charges or spent one day in prison for them,” she said.
Amnesty International also slammed the ruling as a “shameful attack on freedom of expression.”
Amnesty’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa Heba Morayef called the verdict “a slap in the face to justice.”