Bahrain defends Nabeel Rajab sentence
Manama, August 19, 2012
Bahrain has defended a judicial decision to sentence opposition activist Nabeel Rajab to three years behind bars.
Minister of State for Information Affairs Sameera Rajab said the ruling was legitimate and the action of police when arresting him was according to the law.
She said evidence clearly showed Rajab had incited violence and planned to rally in the capital to cripple the country's economy.
The Lower Criminal Court convicted Rajab in three different cases on Thursday for taking part in an illegal gathering in Manama, calling for an unauthorised rally and inciting attacks on security forces.
He was also accused of delivering a speech urging people to stage a march, confront authorities and use violence against the security forces even if it killed them.
"These acts of incitement and direct participation have compromised public order and the safety of citizens through the use of petrol bombs, along with other improvised weapons, against public and private property; as well as assault against police officers, leaving a number of them injured," stressed the Minister.
"These acts have had a direct negative impact on economic and commercial activity in those areas of the capital which have prompted proprietors and business owners to request intervention from the Interior Ministry to protect their interests and immediate safety.”
"Nabeel Rajab called on his followers to attack the police at the risk of death. It is not freedom of expression to tell people to protest and not fear death in the face of the police.”
"Protesters would come to these demonstrations with weapons and Molotov cocktails in hand as a result of his speeches."
Sameera was speaking yesterday during a press conference at the Prime Minister's Court in Manama, during which she focused on freedom of expression, drawing a distinction between the legitimate exercise of that right and acts of violence, vandalism and destruction.
She showed video footage and photographs of protesters on their way to meeting points wearing masks with knives and firebombs in hand.
A speech made by Rajab was also screened in which he allegedly instructed people to protest in Manama and said a rally in the country's economic hub was much more devastating than those in villages.
The minister justified the court's verdict to imprison him and said he was responsible for chaos in the society.
"Nabeel Rajab was not denied anything, he had his lawyer defending him and he was given the right to speak in order to defend himself," she explained.
"This is someone who wants to cripple the economy and yet calls himself a human rights activist.”
"Afterwards protesters said they destroyed the Bahraini economy and were proud of that."
Sameera said the right of appeal is available and guaranteed.
The US State department had issued a statement saying the case was an inappropriate one to begin with and that the excessive punishment for peaceful expression will only serve to divide the Bahraini society further.
However, the Minister said the sentence was not the reason for the polarisation of society, but it was Rajab's actions and his continuous sectarian incitement.
"Nabeel Rajab does not work for human rights and he wants to divide the Bahraini society," she said.
"His establishment used racism at the start to divide the society and also used small organised groups to do so. The US is aware of this and is monitoring the situation and is aware of the racism," Sameera concluded. – TradeArabia News Service