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Bahrain rejects UN statement on activist

Says world body’s views based on ‘distorted information’

Image Credit: EPA
Human rights activist Syed Yousuf Al Mahfdah takes picturesduring a sit-in organised by the Feb 14 Coalition of youthgroups in Barbar village north of Manama on Saturday insupport of detained political activists.
Gulf News

Dubai: Bahrain said a statement issued by United Nations experts relating to the case of a Bahraini human rights activist was based on distorted information.

In comments about the statement issued on August 23 on Nabeel Rajab who was sentenced to three years in prison, the Ministry of Human Rights Affairs said that “Bahrain respects Mr Nabeel Rajab as a citizen defending human rights, as well as his human rights activities.”

However, the government insisted that Rajab was not prosecuted for expressing his opinion or exercising his legitimate freedoms and rights.

“He participated previously in tens of protests and activities, and the authorities did not act against him because his activities were within law. However, when he broke law, the authorities have a legitimate right to prosecute him to protect the rights of others,” the statement said.

“The issue in the case of Mr Rajab is not participation in peaceful protests as was stated in the press release on August 23. The real issue is not about him complying with the law and regulations that allow for peaceful protests. The kingdom of Bahrain witnesses dozens of peaceful protests and the ministry is ready to provide statistics for the distinguished experts upon their request.”

The ministry said that Rajab had been accorded the right to a fair trial “as evidenced most clearly by the presence of his lawyer throughout the judicial process, his right to appeal the sentencing that has been given and publicising the court’s verdict”.

According to the ministry, Rajab is currently facing five legal cases. One of the cases has been challenged by his lawyers who succeeded in turning its verdict in his favour. “This demonstrates that the judicial process in Bahrain is fair, independent, and transparent. Moreover, his lawyers have the opportunity to challenge the other cases before court,” it said.

“The Ministry of Human Rights Affairs believes that this statement is based on distorted information that does not reflect the real situation in the case of Mr Rajab. Therefore, it hopes that now — at a time of healing in the country — external actors will contribute positively by encouraging all parties in Bahrain to recognise the importance of dialogue in order to reconcile the divisions in society created by the 2011 events,” the statement said.