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Leading Bahraini human rights activist arrested

Nabeel Rajab was arrested for having allegedly "denigrated" a public institution
Rajab has been imprisoned on a number of occasions for human rights activism in Bahrain (AFP)

Leading Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who co-founded the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), has been arrested upon his return to Bahrain and is set to face Public Prosecutions on Thursday, charged with “insulting a public institution.”

“He is being held under custody with the police and he will be presented tomorrow morning before the Public Prosecution for further investigation," his lawyer Jalila Alsayed told Middle East Eye.

"He might be released – we hope so – or he might be kept under detention pending further investigation and he might be immediately referred to court if they consider putting charges against him. Or otherwise they will decide to close the investigation."

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) has released a statement saying the General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security had “summoned Nabeel Ahmed Abdulrasool Rajab on Wednesday to interview him regarding Tweets posted on his Twitter account that denigrated government institutions.”

“Mr. Rajab acknowledged the charges and the case was referred to the Public Prosecutor.”

“This doesn’t constitute a good indication for us," said Alsayed, referring to his arrest following the interview.

"The crime which they are alleging he committed is offending or insulting the MOI. This crime is punishable by a fine and also punishable by a prison sentence that could go up to three years."

Rajab had previously posted a tweet criticising the security services of Bahrain for “incubating” the ideologies that lead to young Bahraini men joining the Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Prior to returning to Bahrain, Rajab had been in Europe on an “advocacy trip” and had spoken on the deteriorating human rights conditions in the country.

He had previously told MEE that he expected to face scrutiny upon his return to Bahrain.

“Nabeel’s activism during in the last week in Europe has, I would say, been negatively approached by the regime here," Alsayed told MEE.

"He focused on a lot of human rights violations - I think this is their way of giving a lesson to everybody that this has never been tolerated and will not be tolerated."

“He is very clear that it is because of his activism and his role as a human rights defender that he is under this kind of persecution," she said.

News of the arrest came shortly after it was announced that a travel ban would be lifted on fellow human rights activist Maryam Alkhawaja, who was herself arrested in early September and faces trial charged with assaulting a policewoman.

She told MEE that although it had been announced that the travel ban was lifted, she remained sceptical.

“Given our experience of the Bahraini system, they could even post a paper saying the travel ban had been lifted and then I could go to the airport and not let me out,” she said.

Alkhawaja served as acting President of the BCHR during previous periods when Nabeel Rajab was incarcerated, but did not want to comment on his arrest prior to the prosecution.

Unrest has gripped Bahrain since pro-democracy protests began in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring.

The Bahrain government has repeatedly insisted the demonstrations are infested with “terrorists” who are backed ideologically and materially by Iran and has emphasised the supposedly sectarian nature of the conflict.

As home of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, Bahrain is a strategic ally of the US and other Western countries and has taken part in military action against IS in Syria and Iraq.

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