[JURIST] Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official profile] on Monday released [press release] Bahrain Center for Human Rights [advocacy website] president Nabeel Rajab [professional profile] citing health reasons. Despite the release, the US State Department [press release] and Rajab himself [press release] expressed concern over continued efforts to limit free speech in the country. The State Department said recent events, including the re-arrest [Al-Jazeera report] of opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif, detention and prosecution [press release] of Bahraini opposition figure Majeed Milad, and reopening [JURIST report] of a case against Sheikh Ali Salman [official profile], the Secretary General of Al-Wefaq [official website] political opposition group, all threaten the “universal right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a party.”
For years, tension has existed in Bahrain related to freedom of expression. Bahrain has experienced especially high tension between police and protestors since early 2011. In April Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported that reforms in Bahrain failed to end [JURIST report] serious human rights violations. The report detailed the continued jailing of activists and mistreatment of detainees. In February a Bahraini court found eleven Shiites guilty [JURIST report] attacking police in 2013, and three Shiites were later sentenced to death. The other eight defendants were handed life sentences and stripped of their citizenship. Also in February Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior initiated a criminal investigation [JURIST report] into alleged criminal content posted by the Al-Wefaq opposition group.