McGovern Welcomes Release of Bahraini Prisoner of Conscience Nabeel Rajab

WASHINGTON, D.C. Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) and a leading congressional supporter of human rights around the world, released this statement following news that Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab has been released from prison under an alternative sentencing arrangement. Rep. McGovern has served as the congressional advocate for Rajab through the Defending Freedoms Project coordinated by the TLHRC.

“I am very happy that Nabeel has been released from prison and reunited with his family. The Bahraini government made the right decision in this case, and I hope they will release all other prisoners of conscience as well, including Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Abduljalil al-Singace, Naji Fateel, Ahmed Humaidan and Sheikh Ali Salman.

“I do not believe Nabeel should ever have been in prison,” the Congressman continued. “His arrests and convictions have been for speaking out about injustices in Bahrain and criticizing the government. These are things that should never be a crime – and no one should be in prison for political reasons during a pandemic.”

Nabeel Rajab is a prominent Bahraini human rights advocate who founded and directed the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and cofounded the Gulf Center for Human Rights. A major figure in Bahrain’s 2011 protests, he has been arrested and imprisoned repeatedly for exercising his fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly. His most recent detention began with a warrantless arrest in June 2016. In 2018 he was sentenced to five years in prison for tweets criticizing torture in Bahrain and the Saudi-led coalition’s military intervention in Yemen. The details of Rajab’s alternative sentence are not fully known.

While imprisoned, Rajab was subjected to solitary confinement and degrading treatment and suffered from poor health that required prolonged hospitalizations. Human rights organizations, members of the European parliament and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights are among those who have repeatedly called for his release.