October 16, 2012

Nabeel Rajab's Appeal Hearing Delayed, West Shuts Eyes

A Bahraini appeals court postponed Nabeel Rajab's hearing on Tuesday, perpetuating the criminalization of a leading human rights defender in the Middle East.

The ruling is hardly surprising in light of recent events. During his last appeal hearing on September 27th, the government's prosecution team introduced doctored video "evidence" of Rajab "instigating violent protests" that hadn't been shown at the trial. His inhumane treatment leading up to his trial was similarly unjust and the sham trial itself was clearly the product of a government takedown. Bahrain's appeals process then functions as a black hole for prisoners of conscience. One of Bahrain's foremost "public enemies," the monarchy is treating Rajab as such in the vain hope that he will eventually crack and stand down. King Hamad and royal circle are mistaken in this strategy though. The most they can do is keep him off the streets for as long as possible - three years at the moment. They can't even stop his Twitter feed.

Rajab’s next hearing is scheduled for November 8th.

While Bahrain's appeals process experiences natural delays like any other country, Tuesday's decision is typical of the monarchy's systematic campaign against Bahrain's human rights activists and revolutionary personalities. The appeals circuit has already struck down a high-profile group of political prisoners, including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and is bound to do the same to Rajab. Al-Khawaja's daughter, Zainab, is also imprisoned on 13 different charges; most deride King Hamad but all messages were sent through non-violent protests. All of these individuals have endured the monarchy's physical and mental abuse, so each new injustice cannot be separated from the whole.

Mohammed Al-Maskati, President of Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), was also arrested on Tuesday after being ordered to report "on the charges of rioting and participating in an illegal gathering." He will be taken to the Public Prosecution Office tomorrow and accused of the same charges as Rajab. This is how the monarchy's scheme works: detain the opposition's leaders on the grounds that they are instigating Bahrain's violence. However their voices express the island's non-violent movement more clearly than any others. Those protesters who have chosen violence did so out of personal resolve, or else in reaction to the hostile and unjust treatment of Bahrain's pro-democracy movement. They have nowhere else to turn when the monarchy assaults them, refuses an honest dialogue with the opposition, then holds the latter responsible for not participating (all designed to stall for as long as possible).

No protester has been explicitly or implicitly ordered to commit, in the monarchy's words, "sabotage" and "terrorism." The most Rajab and the Khawajas have admitted to is a sympathetic understanding of Bahrain's pent-up anger. Al-Maskati's case is almost certainly tied to his presence at the UNHRC's 21st session, which Bahrain's monarchy dominated through sheer numbers and power. So complete is King Hamad's repression.

These developments follow another of his delusional speeches. Too obsessed with Iranian missile strikes and coups to concern himself, the King goes about his monarchial business as though Bahrain's 20-month uprising doesn't exist. Meanwhile government officials continue to "improve relations" with their U.S. counterparts. As Rajab was being taken back to his cell, Field Marshal Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa met with Lt-General Robert B. Nelle, CENTCOM's senior Marine commander, at the BDF Headquarters in Manama. This high-level meeting of delegations was attended by U.S. Ambassador Thomas Krajeski, who also met with Minister of Human Rights Affairs Dr. Salah bin Ali Abdulrahman on Tuesday.

Bahrain's Minister would "unveil a prospective visit to the USA where he will hold meetings with US officials, congressmen, human rights organizations and Media centers in order to give them an update on the latest developments in Bahrain, inform them about the kingdom's human rights achievements and discuss with them exchange of expertise and experiences."

The U.S. government issued no response to Rajab's latest judicial harassment and has remained publicly silent since his July 12th arrest.

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