SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)A Bahraini court today sentenced Mr Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, to three years in prison for inciting and taking part in illegal rallies and demonstrations.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said:
“We are concerned at the length of sentence handed down to Mr Nabeel Rajab for charges relating to comments made on social networking sites and for incitement of illegal rallies. We urge the Bahraini Government to act proportionately in all cases. The right of individuals to peaceful protest and freedom of expression is a fundamental part of any modern democracy and must be respected. But we expect opposition activists to ensure their words and actions do not incite violence or other illegal acts.”
US State Department Daily press briefing
QUESTION: In Bahrain --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- do you have anything to say about the three-year prison sentence that was handed down to the human rights advocate Nabeel Rajab for a tweet that was critical of the Prime Minister?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have two issues now. We have the issue of the tweet where the – my understanding is that that – the decision on his appeal has now been postponed, but we have a three-year sentencing today for his participation in what the Bahrainis called illegal gatherings.
So with regard to the sentencing today on the gathering, as you know, we’ve long made clear that it’s critical for all governments, including Bahrain, to respect freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, so we are deeply troubled by the sentencing today of Nabeel Rajab to three years in prison on charges of illegally gathering. We believe that all people have a fundamental freedom to participate in civil acts of peaceful disobedience, and we call on the Government of Bahrain to take steps to build confidence across Bahraini society and to begin a really meaningful dialogue with the political opposition and civil society, because actions like this sentencing today only serve to further divide Bahraini society.
QUESTION: Do you want him released?
MS. NULAND: We have said that we think that this is an inappropriate case to begin with.
QUESTION: Right. But are you telling the Bahrainis that you think he should be released?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think that we are now that the sentence has come down. We’re not getting in the middle of that. We’ve said from the beginning that we thought that this case shouldn’t have gone forward.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that. But it is appropriate while the case is still pending for you to be calling for him to be released, but once --
MS. NULAND: This case he’s – this case he has now been sentenced --
QUESTION: I understand that.
MS. NULAND: -- and the other case hasn’t – hasn’t come forward.
QUESTION: But since you think that it’s inappropriate and shouldn’t have --
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we think --
QUESTION: -- you certainly want him freed?
MS. NULAND: Obviously, we think that this should be vacated.
QUESTION: So have you guys been in touch with Bahraini authorities about this case today?
MS. NULAND: We have all the way through, and we also have today. Yeah.
QUESTION: Who spoke to whom today?
MS. NULAND: I think our Embassy spoke to the Bahraini authorities today.
QUESTION: Victoria, the King of Bahrain claimed that his country still needs the help of foreign troops, let’s say from Saudi Arabia, and it is still being threatened by the minority of the country and perhaps by Iran. Do you concur with his assessment?
MS. NULAND: Our message to the Kingdom of Bahrain throughout this has been to first complete the recommended reform steps that the Bahraini Independent Commission recommended. As you know, they got about halfway through and some of the rest of that implementation has not gone forward. But secondarily, and the Secretary made these points the last time that we had the Foreign Minister here and the Crown Prince here, we strongly support a national dialogue to try to heal the country and get the constituencies talking to each other about reform that’s going to protect the rights of all citizens.
QUESTION: Do you feel that the presence of foreign troops, in this case from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, is actually an intimidating factor for the minority or for the majority in this case to demand its equal rights under the law?
MS. NULAND: Again, we think the best course of action here is for the communities to talk to each other and talk about how reform can strengthen everybody’s confidence and everybody’s sense of security.
The spokesperson of Catherine Ashton
Summary: 16 August 2012, Brussels - The spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, issued the following statement today
"High Representative Catherine Ashton has noted with concern the sentencing of Mr Nabeel Rajab to three years in prison for taking part in unauthorised protests in Bahrain
The High Representative expects that this sentence in Mr Rajab's case will be reconsidered in the appeal process and that the same treatment will be given to all Bahraini citizens who are being tried for charges relating to the exercise of their fundamental freedoms. Fair and impartial justice is a key requirement to overcome the current challenges in Bahrain.
The High Representative urges all components of Bahraini society to contribute to dialogue and national reconciliation in a peaceful and constructive manner, without further delays."