[JURIST] The prison sentence for outspoken Bahraini [BBC backgrounder] rights activist Nabeel Rajab [personal Twitter account], who has been detained since July, was reduced by one year in an appeals court on Tuesday. Rajab, founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights [advocacy website], was originally sentenced to three years imprisonment [BCHR materials] for leading unlicensed protests against the powerful Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa dynasty. The judge ruled on three cases against Rajab, each related to peaceful protesting. In one case, the judge upheld the original one-year sentence. The sentences for the other two cases were reduced to six months each. Just last week, several US Congressmen wrote [text, PDF] to Bahraini King Hamad al-Khalifa to “express [their] concern regarding Nabeel Rajab and other Bahrainis who have been prosecuted for crimes related to freedom of expression.” It is uncertain whether Rajab will try to appeal further from the decision made on Tuesday.
Bahrain has faced international criticism for its crackdown against dissidents since anti-government protests began last year. In October Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Bahrain’s court of appeals to overturn the conviction of Rajab [JURIST report]. Also in October, the Bahrain Court of Cassation upheld jail sentences [JURIST report] for nine medics convicted for their involvement in Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising. According to Bahrain News Agency [official website], the medics were working at Salmaniya Medical Complex [official website], and, during the time of the uprising, “took over the complex, detained and imprisoned kidnapped persons, and transformed the hospital to a place of illegal gathering and strikes, in violation of laws.” According to Physicians for Human Rights [official website], at least 95 health workers were arrested in Bahrain only after some medics treated those hurt by security forces and spoke out against the crackdown against protesters, which included firing upon ambulances. Last month government officials pledged to fulfill [JURIST report] the 158 recommendations included in the UN Universal Periodic Review [materials] regarding human rights abuses against political opposition. HRW called on Bahrain to follow through with their promises, but raised doubts as to whether the government is fully committed to reform.