Nabeel Rajab, Bahrain’s leading human rights activist, has been released from prison on Tuesday, June 09, nearly four years after authorities jailed him on charges related to expressing anti-government dissent on social media, his family and his lawyer said.
Mr. Rajab, a co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights(BCHR), will serve the remainder of his five-year sentence in a non-custodial setting, his lawyer, Mohammed al-Jishi, said in a text message.
“Nabeel has been released and he is on his way home now. The court has finally agreed to grant [him]an alternative sentence,” Mr. Al-Jishi told the AFP news agency.
Bahrain introduced legislation in 2018 that allowed courts to convert jail terms into non-custodial sentences. Mr. Rajab is the first major opposition figure to be freed under this legislation, Reuters news agency reports.
A photo of Mr. Rajab, smiling broadly while standing with his family, was circulated by his supporters on Tuesday.
Mr. Rajab played a leading role in a pro-democracy uprising in 2011.
In February 2018, he was sentenced to five years in prison for tweets criticising alleged torture at a Bahraini prison and the actions of the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen’s civil war.
His sentence was later upheld by an appeals court in the Bahraini capital Manama.
Bahrain’s government insisted that Rajab’s trials had been independent and transparent.
“There is a distinct difference between legitimate criticism of government and attempts to incite public disorder,” it said in a statement at the time.
Rajab was already serving a two-year sentence after he was found guilty in 2017 of spreading false news that undermined Bahrain’s “prestige”.
That sentence related to a television interview he gave in which he criticised the authorities for their refusal to allow journalists and human rights groups into the country.
Charges included “spreading false rumours in time of war”, “insulting public authorities” (the interior ministry) and “insulting a foreign country” (Saudi Arabia).
“The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights welcomes the release of Nabeel Rajab after nearly four years behind bars,” the organisation said in a statement.
“We are overjoyed at the news of Nabeel Rajab’s release. Nabeel is a dedicated and passionate activist who has always advocated for human rights in Bahrain,” Aya Majzoub from Human Rights Watch told AFP. (Source: BBC)