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UN urges Bahrain to release jailed human rights activist Nabeel Rajab

Bahraini human rights activists have suffered severely from government repression. [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 January, 2019

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Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini activist, was sentenced to five years in jail for tweeting criticism of the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The United Nations on Friday called for the release of Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini activist sentenced to five years in jail for tweeting criticism of the Saudi-led Yemen war. 

"We call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and to ensure that all Bahrainis are able to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression without fear of arbitrary detention," said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN human rights office. 

"We urge the government of Bahrain to stop criminalising dissenting voices."

Rajab, who played a key role in the 2011 anti-government protests, on Monday lost his final appeal against a five-year jail term for writing tweets deemed offensive to the state.

Read more: Another year of deep state repression in Bahrain

Bahrain's Supreme Court, whose verdicts are final, upheld the jail term against him.

He was convicted of endangering the Saudi-led military campaign, which includes Sunni-ruled Bahrain, in Yemen and publicly offending a foreign country, a reference to Saudi Arabia. 

Rajab is also serving a two-year sentence in a separate case linked to interviews with the foreign press. 

Bahrain is part of a Saudi-led bloc that severed ties with Qatar in 2017 over accusations of supporting extremism and being too close to regional rival Iran, charges Doha has vehemently denied.

Bahrain later announced it would jail anyone in the kingdom who expressed sympathy for Qatar over the sanctions and blockade.

The move followed a similar announcement by the UAE to punish anyone expressing sympathy with Qatar with between three and 15 years in jail and a fine of 500,000 dirhams ($136,125). 

Home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and a British military base, Bahrain is located between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran and has been ruled for more than two centuries by the Al-Khalifa dynasty.

Authorities have jailed dozens of high-profile activists and disbanded both religious and secular opposition groups since protests demanding political change erupted in 2011.

They have stripped hundreds of those convicted of their citizenship, leaving many stateless.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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