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10 May 2012
Re: Bahrain - Arrest, detention and trial of human rights defender Mr Nabeel Rajab

On the evening of 5 May 2012, prominent human rights defender Mr Nabeel Rajab was arrested on his arrival at Manama airport from a trip to Sweden, Denmark and the Lebanon. On 6 May 2012, he was brought before the Criminal Court of First Instance in Manama and charged of incitement of illegal rallies and marches by using social networking websites. The court remanded him in custody for seven days pending an investigation. Nabeel Rajab is President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. He has been awarded the 2011 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award by the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Nabeel Rajab, who is well known for using social media site Twitter as a tool for human rights campaigning, has also been charged with using Twitter to "defame" and "humiliate" the Bahraini public security forces. Before leaving Bahrain for his recent trip, he was summoned by the Public Prosecutor in relation to his tweets but he did not attend due to his impending travels. Nabeel Rajab attended the court session of 6 May 2012 with his lawyer and acknowledged that he was the author of the tweets in question. He denied all charges brought against him and stated that he does not recognise the authority of the court and the prosecution as he believes that both lack independence and are influenced by the executive authority. He is currently being held at Al Houra Police station and is due to appear before the court on 22 May 2012.

Since early 2011, Nabeel Rajab has been the subject of an ongoing campaign of intimidation, judicial harassment and defamation, including arbitrary arrest and detention. This campaign, which aims to deter him from continuing his legitimate human rights work, included an unprovoked dawn attack by security forces in May 2011 using tear gas on his home, while his family were asleep.

Front Line Defenders Defenders condemns the arrest, detention and trial of Nabeel Rajab and is seriously concerned about the ongoing campaign of judicial harassment against him. Front Line Defenders believes that this campaign is solely motivated by his peaceful and legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression and assembly, and his human rights work in Bahrain.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Bahrain to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release Nabeel Rajab, as Front Line Defenders believes that he is being detained solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights;
2. Drop all charges brought against Nabeel Rajab as it is believed that they are solely motivated by his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights;
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

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