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Bahrain Imprisons Human Rights Leader

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Rajab had recently been handed three months for controversial tweets slating Sunni communities [EPA]The Al Khalifa monarchy rules Bahrain despotically. State terror is policy. Activists are targeted, arrested, tortured, and imprisoned. Kangaroo court proceedings deny justice.

Nabeel Rajab is one of Bahrain's best. He's a prominent human rights leader. Activism got him targeted. His resume includes many impressive credentials. In 1999, he and others co-founded the Bahrain Human Rights Society.

In 2002, he, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, and others co-founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). Authorities terrorized its members for years. Nonetheless, it remains viable. It's dedicated to working for:

"a prosperous democratic country free of discrimination and other violations of human rights" and says its mission is to "encourage and support individuals and groups to be proactive in the protection of their own and others' rights; and to struggle to promote democracy and human rights in accordance with international norms."

Its four objectives include:

(1) Promoting civil, political, and economic freedom.

(2) Ending racial discrimination.

(3) Disseminating human rights culture.

(4) Supporting and protecting victims' rights.

Anyone championing human rights in Bahrain risks life and limb. Rajab's been harassed, smeared by state media, beaten, injured, arrested, tortured and detained.

The Bahraini monarchy spurns human rights, justice and other democratic values. Iron-fist governance is policy. Activists like Rajab know the risks and take them. They want long denied equity and justice. They struggle courageously for it.

On August 16, Bahrain's New Agency headlined "Nabeel Rajab Verdict Announced, Right to Appeal," saying:

“Bahrain's Lower Criminal Court….sentenc(ed Rajab) to three years in prison in three different cases."

Prosecutor Mohamed Hazza falsely claimed:

"Public Prosecution produced evidence that the accused had called in public speeches for a demonstration to confront public security personnel, inciting violence and escalation against law enforcement officers, resulting in deaths during those confrontations."

"Following his speech, a demonstration raged through Manama, turning into an illegal assembly intending to undermine law and order, block roads and assault public security personnel."

Rajab and others advocate for democracy, equal rights and justice. Bahrain rulers call it "illegal practices, inciting illegal assemblies, and organizing unlicensed demonstrations through social media websites."

In Bahrain, doing what's right is wrong. Rajab faces three years hard time for championing social justice issues. In July, he was jailed for twittering critical anti-regime comments.

Rajab's lawyer, Mohmmed al-Jishi, said he'll appeal.

His wife, Sumaya, told AP:

"What happened today in the courtroom shows clearly there is no justice or independent judiciary. My husband is not a criminal but a hostage of a government which can’t stand freedom of expression and freedom of assembly."

Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch deputy director for its Middle East/North Africa division, said:

"The government has yet to show that Nabeel Rajab did any more than exercise his right to free expression and peaceful assembly. He should be set free, not sent away from his family to prison."

Human Rights First director Brian Dooley said:

"Even those of us who have followed Bahrain's violent crackdown on human rights are shocked by today's move," he said. "It's a breathtakingly bad decision, showing that the regime's rhetoric about reform and reconciliation is a sham. The charges are patently politically-motivated, and designed to silence him."

The main Shiite majority political group, Al-Wefaq, added:

"By not releasing the political detainees, including key figures and leaders, the regime is refusing the political solution to the crisis and is practicing an irresponsible obstinacy."

"There should be no political detainees behind bars. They are prisoners of conscience and the regime has no right to continue to hold them as hostages as part of its security solution to the ongoing political crisis. The arrogant adoption of security measures is more destructive to society."

Nineteen congressional members wrote King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. They urged him "to order Mr. Rajab’s release under the universal principle that that all citizens should have the right to peacefully express disagreement with their government."

Hamad rules Bahrain despotically. State terrorism is policy. He calls peaceful protests "foreign plots."

Before his arrest, Rajab accused Washington of supporting Bahraini despotism, including "attacks against human rights defenders." No matter the personal cost, he promised continued support for democratic values too important to be denied.

"I think we have to pay a much higher price than what normally people pay for freedom and democracy because you will not hear much about what’s going on here, as much as you will hear things happening in different countries," he added.

On August 16, BCHR and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) condemned Rajab's sentence. He was targeted to prevent his human rights work and silence him, they said. Since July 9, he's been serving three months imprisonment on libel charges.

His son, Adam, read publicly what he prepared earlier, saying:

"You can jail me for 3 years or 30 years, but I will not back down or retreat."

Rajab put his life on the line for years. On March 20, 2011, masked security forces stormed his home past midnight. While blindfolded and handcuffed, they harassed and savagely beat him. In April and May 2011, his house was attacked with tear gas bombs. He and his family were endangered.

He's been arrested, interrogated, tortured, and banned from foreign travel. At issue was preventing his participation in human rights conferences and meetings.

His wife was also targeted. Sumaya was harassed and sacked at work. His children were intimidated in school. In 2012 alone, Rajab faced five criminal charges. Bahrain's kangaroo justice convicted him on all counts.

Political repression targets all regime opponents. Rajab, other activists, independent journalists, and others arrested are judged guilty by accusation. Washington officials encourage Bahraini brutes to crack down hard.

They're replicating their justice in America. Freedom is fast eroding. It's on the chopping block for elimination. Money power and militarized might demand it.


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