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The Arrest of Nabeel Rajab

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MANAMA (Rixstep) — Nabeel Rajab is the head of the outlawed Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He's been an outspoken critic of the oppressive regime in Bahrain for the past ten years. He's also one of two guests on Julian Assange's show Tuesday 8 May 2012. And he was arrested by Bahraini authorities on his return to the country this past weekend, and he's currently being held in custody on typically ridiculous charges.

The World Tomorrow

Nabeel has revealed that when he announced on Twitter that he'd be filming a show with Julian Assange, the Bahraini militia immediately surrounded his house. Nabeel was however in the UK with Julian Assange to film the show - something the Bahraini government hadn't understood.

Cablegate

Nabeel Rajab figures prominently in the US embassy cables starting already in 2004. His organisation was outlawed early on but he and others continue their work.

Formula 1

The rulers of Bahrain managed to reinstate their notorious Formula One race this year. The richest of the rich were out in droves. But what people didn't see was what was going on behind the scenes.

Channel 4's Jonathan Miller was deported from the country for following the events with his film team.

Here is a clip he managed to smuggle out of the country for Channel 4.



Here's Jonathan's report on how he was arrested.



Here's Channel 4's own report. (Requires Flash.)

Lebanon

Nabeel gave an interview with Australia's SBS whilst in Lebanon a week ago conducting a workshop for journalists and activists from the Gulf region. It was on his return from Lebanon that he was arrested.

Q: What is your assessment of the situation after the Formula 1 Grand Prix was allowed to go ahead?
A: Conditions are still very shaky. Roads were blocked during the event because of the internal ministry's crackdown.

There are still imprisonments and detention without specific charges. Politically, we are constricted and there is no dialogue with Bahraini regime whatsoever.

Q: What has your centre documented most recently?
A: As you know, we lost recently one of the youth during the latest demonstrations during the F1 Grand Prix.

Live bullets have been used. There were scores injured, the prisoners that we know of all have all been tortured, sexually assaulted, beaten, hung from ceilings for prolonged periods and other brutal acts.

Q: As head of the Gulf Center of Human Rights and a vocal critic of the Bahraini regime, what are you, and other human rights activists, specifically calling for?

A: I am just one of the people. I try and do my best to relay the message.



We would like a government that is democratically chosen by the people instead of the pre-ordained selection of electoral circles in a biased fashion to suit the regime's needs. These are basic democratic demands that would see a transition towards constitutional reforms.

Q: Where do you see the revolution heading to now?
A: This has been one of the longest revolutions in the Arab world to date. We have ample energy.

The regime is funded by Saudi Arabia and the United States and for these powers true democracy to be created destabilizes their interests.

It has won the 'media war' because of their constant propaganda and they are collaborating with other Salafi and Wahabi groups to maintain their tyrannical grip on power.

We want true justice and economic rights for all. We cannot express our democratic vision while the government suppresses our freedom of speech.

Q: You are in Lebanon at the moment organising a workshop for young Gulf journalists and human rights activists. What are you hoping from this event?
A: We have young activists from different nationalities including Saudi Arabian, Kuwaiti and Bahraini.

What we're trying to promote with this training from professional journalists is a culture of human rights. It starts with these young people!

Saturday 5 May

The Bahraini Ministry of Interior tweeted the arrest of Nabeel at 18:38 BST 5 May 2012. Nabeel was arrested already at the Bahraini International Airport.



The website of the Bahraini police was knocked offline one hour later.



Four more Bahraini government websites were to succumb to the attacks: the Ministry of Interior, the Royal Police Academy, the Bahrain News Agency, and Gulf Air.



Russian RT then reported that Nabeel had not only been arrested but imprisoned. They also had this to add.

'The protests against the Al Khalifa family, who have ruled Bahrain for two centuries, began in February 2011 as the Arab Spring revolutions swept across the region. For fourteen months Al Khalifa forces have been using stun grenades, tear-gas, and pepper-spray on protesters. The abuses only came into the spotlight because of the protests surrounding the prestigious F1 Grand Prix event.'

Reactions

The Old World and the Twitter World have been in a flurry ever since.

  • Julian Assange offered embargoed access to the full three hour transcript of Tuesday's show with Nabeel Rajab.
  • Nabeel Rajab called his wife to tell her he'd be held in prison overnight. This was relayed by Nabeel's coworker Maryam al-Khawaja on Twitter.
  • The Bahraini Centre for Human Rights stated that Nabeel had been charged with 'participating in illegal assembly and calling others to join' and could possible face the charge of 'insulting the statutory bodies'.
  • RT revealed details of the upcoming Assange show where Nabeel talks about being detained, kidnapped, and beaten because of his criticism of the Bahraini regime.
  • The public prosecutor extended Nabeel's incarceration to seven days.
  • The International Federation of Human Rights demanded Nabeel's immediate and unconditional release.
  • Index on Censorship condemned the arrest of Nabeel who'd recently won their Award for Advocacy.
  • Nabeel's colleagues began using his Twitter account by the following evening, pointing out that there are another 700 political prisoners in Bahrain.

  • AFP reported on 7 May that Nabeel is being held because he 'insulted a statutory body' and Bahraini police are claiming Nabeel's Twitter tweets 'fuelled rioting, road blocking, arsons, and acts of sabotage'.

Al Khalifa & the US 5th Fleet

The Al Khalifa family have ruled Bahrain for over two hundred years. Their reign began in 1783, only seven years after one Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.

Bahrain is today the home of the United States Fifth Fleet, the base for such classics as Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As shown in the cables relating to Nabeel, the Al Khalifa family have a semblance of understanding for Nabeel's concerns, but there are other powerful interests in the area that override.

The World Tomorrow Tomorrow

Nabeel will be Julian's guest on 'The World Tomorrow' Tuesday 8 May starting at 12:30 BST.

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