Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini opposition activist and president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been sentenced to three years in jail because of his participation in “unauthorized protests”.
The judge residing over the case against Rajab issued a one year sentence for each of the three charges. Rajab's lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi stated he plans to appeal the ruling and added: "It is a very stiff and unexpected ruling, I am surprised. They are peaceful protests, not violent ones,"
This is not the first time that Rajab has been found guilty in a Bahrain courts. In June he was found guilty of “insulting the people of the Muharraq Island” and was sentenced to three months confinement at that time. After that ruling, Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying “If anyone is guilty of insult today, it is the Bahraini government, which has reminded citizens they’re not free to express political views.”
Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Alkhawaja helping an old woman after police attacked a peaceful protest in August 2010
Brian Dooley of U.S.-based Human Rights First expressed his thought regarding the latest court ruling, saying:
"This is a shocking verdict, even by Bahrain's own abysmal standards on human rights. The regime can't be seen serious about human rights reform when it jails one of the world's most prominent activists to prison for three years,"
Amnesty International has issued a press release calling the verdict "... a dark day for justice in Bahrain that further questions the independence of the judiciary."
The United States recently called for dialogue to reduce tensions between the government of Bahrain and the citizens who began to protest the extensive powers of the ruling Sunni Al Khalifa dynasty. This latest development will most likely further strain existing tensions between the two countries and undermine the US attempt to work towards a quick and peaceful resolution for the growing outrage and mistrust held by many in the Bahraini Shia community.
No one wants to see another violent conflict like the one occurring in Syria. There have already been many reported deaths during protests in Bahrain. The hope for many had been that a dialogue facilitated by the US, or another country, would perhaps be able to prevent such a conflict. It is uncertain how this latest development will be viewed by those that want a change within the Bahraini government, and what the potential reaction will be.