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Amnesty, EU parliament urge Bahrain to free top activist

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Bahraini human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab ©AP

Amnesty International and the European Parliament have separately called on the Bahraini regime to release the country’s prominent human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, and drop charges against the internationally-respected campaigner.

Rajab, who has been repeatedly detained for organizing anti-regime demonstrations and publishing posts deemed insulting to the Bahraini authorities, was pardoned for health reasons last year. However, the 51-year-old activist was rearrested last month.

He is expected to stand trial next week over tweets in March 2015 criticizing Manama’s involvement in the deadly Saudi aggression against Yemen and torture at Bahrain’s notorious Jaw Prison.

“Parading a human rights defender like Nabeel Rajab in front of a court over tweets is a shameless attack on freedom of expression and is a further stain on Bahrain’s already appalling human rights record,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

He also called on the Al Khalifah regime to drop the “absurd charges” against the campaigner and “other prisoners of conscience.”

Luther further noted that the kingdom must halt its “brazen crackdown on freedom of expression” and allow people to peacefully express their opinions.

In a similar development on Thursday, the European Parliament called for "the immediate and unconditional release of Rajab along with other human rights activists, stressing that "all charges against them be dropped.”

It further condemned “the ongoing campaign of repression against human rights defenders, the political opposition and civil society, as well as the restriction of fundamental democratic rights” in the tiny Persian Gulf country.

Anti-regime protesters clash with riot police firing tear gas in the western village of Shahrakan, Bahrain, April 5, 2016. ©AP

Rajab, who heads Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), is expected to appear in court on July 12. He faces up to 13 years in prison on charges of allegedly “spreading false information and rumors with the aim of discrediting the state.”

Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the Persian Gulf region, has seen a wave of anti-regime protests since mid-February 2011.

The Al Khalifah regime is engaged in a harsh crackdown on dissent and widespread discrimination against the country's Shia majority. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in the island state.

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