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Bahrain authorities arrest prominent human rights activist

Bahraini authorities on Monday arrested [BCHR press release] prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, according to the country's Interior Ministry [official website, in Arabic]. According to his lawyer, Rajab was arrested for messages he posted on Twitter [website] criticizing the Interior Ministry. Rajab is the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) [advocacy website], a group that has been critical of the Bahraini regime's response to protests and demonstrations in Bahrain [BBC backgrounder] which have been ongoing since February 2011 [JURIST report]. Following Rajab's arrest, the BCHR expressed concern that "[t]he authorities in Bahrain have used many methods in attempting to prevent and/or limit human rights defenders in Bahrain from carrying out their work of documenting and reporting on human rights violations in the country." Rajab was charged with insulting a statutory body [AFP report] and will be detained for seven days.

Rajab was arrested [JURIST report] last month just before a planned demonstration against the imprisonment of a prominent rights activist, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and charged with participation in illegal gatherings. In March Amnesty International (AI) [advocay website] urged [JURIST report] the Bahraini government to release Al-Khawaja, who had at that time been on a hunger strike in protest of his charges for 50 days. That same month the UN expressed concern [JURIST report] over the escalation of the government crackdowns on protesters. In addition to open violence against activists, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report in March claiming protesters are being convicted in unfair trials [JURIST report]. All of this comes after the government announced constitutional reforms [JURIST report] in January that were rejected by opposition groups.

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