August 16, 2012

Nabeel Rajab Destined For Revolutionary Greatness

Apparently Bahrain's monarchy wants to keep the island's democratic uprising burning for at least five years.

In one the most foolish moves of his counterrevolution, a court of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has sentenced preeminent activist Nabeel Rajab to three years in prison (one year for three different protests). His charges cited non-violent participation in pro-democracy marches as provocation of "fueled rioting, road blocking, arson, acts of sabotage targeting public and private properties, the use of petrol bombs and IEDs, amongst others." Demonstrating that the court's decision rests in the hands of King Hamad's royal circle, a statement from the president's collectively punished Rajab for "acts have caused injuries to over 700 security force members."

Nabeel has consistently rejected the use of violence, advocating peaceful protest in words and actions. Now the monarchy has provoked a new cycle of violence in the streets, which will likely be held against the opposition as usual.

The cumulative maliciousness of Tuesday and Thursday's decisions may not "mark the end of Bahrain's democratic facade," as some news sources are describing it, but Rajab's unjust sentencing is capable of triggering its downfall. On top of contradicting all previous statements from itself and allied Western capitals, imprisoning Rajab won't come close to breaking his spirit or Bahrain's opposition. The only option for both sides remains escalation.

"You can jail me for three years or 30 years, but I will not back down or retreat," his son, Adam, quoted him as saying after the verdict.

King Hamad's regime will, of course, attempt to hold up their false front for as possible. Expecting waves of backlash, Rajab's verdict was issued with absolute confidence and accompanied by a highly scripted media campaign. Public Prosecution argued that the court "was keen to guarantee a fair trial, and allowed the defendant to appoint a lawyer," a laughable statement on multiple levels. Hundreds of lawyers won't make a difference when the charges themselves are cooked in an authoritarian court. As for the right to appeal, which his lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi will file next week, this option is disingenuously offered to manufacture a false image of due process.

"The sentence, although harsh and unfair, comes as no surprise to Nabeel and I," his wife, Sumayia, said afterward. "It shows how biased and corrupt the judiciary in Bahrain is. There are no human rights in Bahrain. As the defense team said, this sentence is the biggest scandal in the history of Bahrain judiciary."

Adding insult to injury, Nabeel's pending verdict on his Tweeting was also postponed to August 24th. All of these decisions were announced as King Hamad powwows at King Abdullah's Gulf Counterrevolutionary Club in Mecca.

The flagrant injustice of Rajab's sentencing was enough to force a reaction from Washington and the European Union. Speaking in unison with EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton, the U.S. State Department's Victoria Nuland told reporters that the Obama administration is "deeply troubled" and believes "that all people have a fundamental freedom to participate in civil acts of peaceful disobedience." Except the West's latest rhetoric exemplifies the fluff that has enabled the regime this far, and ultimately feeds into the government's narrative instead of the opposition's. Nuland would, "call on the government... to begin a really meaningful dialogue with the political opposition," even though this plan has utterly failed to stabilize the island.

She then drops her greatest lie of all, claiming, "We’ve said from the beginning that we thought that this case shouldn’t have gone forward." While this opinion may have been expressed privately, the Obama administration has remained silent throughout Rajab's latest confinement and Bahrain's uprising in general. Clearly nothing came from Washington's private "concern," and Rajab himself laments the disastrous state of U.S. policy in Bahrain.

"Obviously, we think that this should be vacated," Nuland arrogantly concludes, propaganda that will fool only the ignorant.

Meanwhile the British Foreign Office "raised concern about the length of the term" and defended the "rights of individuals to peaceful protest," but couldn't stop itself from adding, "we expect opposition activists to ensure their words and actions do not incite violence or other illegal acts."

If Rajab's ruling is miraculously overturned in the future, the decision won't stem from external pressure - the first factor is sheer futility and counterproductively on the ground. This situation could be irrelevant though, because the raw impression of Rajab's sentence has already sent Bahrain hurtling further down the long road of asymmetric warfare. No one in the opposition can feel free or safe if the country's leading activists aren't.

“What happen today in the court room shows clearly there is no justice or independent judiciary,” said Sumayia. “My husband is not a criminal but a hostage of a government which can’t stand freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.”

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