Bahrain Releases Human Rights Activist Nabeel Rajab, Only to Send Another Activist Back to Jail

Bahraini human rights activist was freed tonight after a royal pardon. Photograph shared widely  on social media. Source: @nawaf_alhendal

Bahraini human rights activist was freed tonight after a royal pardon. Photograph shared widely on social media. Source: Kuwaiti human rights activist @nawaf_alhendal

Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was freed tonight from prison following a royal pardon. The surprise move coincided with the renewed detention of Ibrahim Sharif, the Secretary General of the National Democratic Action Society (WAAD), a Bahraini leftist political party, for another 15 days pending investigation. Sharif was arrested on July 11, a mere three weeks after his release from a sentence government critics say was politically motivated.

Rajab was arrested at his home in Bani Jamra on April 2, 2015, over messages he sent on Twitter concerning the welfare of individuals incarcerated in Bahrain's Jaw Prison as well as news about the Saudi-led coalition that has waged airstrikes against Yemen since the end of March. While detained pending investigation for this set of tweets, a Bahrain court upheld a six month sentence against him over comments he made about ISIS on Twitter, on May 14.

According to a statement issued by the government-run Bahrain News Agency “His Majesty the King today issued a royal decree granting a special pardon to Nabeel Ahmed Abdul Rasul Rajab for health reasons.” No further information is available on whether the pardon includes charges from the other cases, all involving Twitter, court dates for which have not been set, or was for the ISIS-related tweets.

News of Rajab's release was welcomed with caution across Bahrain. Many commented on whether the government was playing chess with its political dissidents.

Freedom Prayers tweets:

We arrest Ali Salman, we release Ibrahim Sharif; We arrest Sharif, we release Nabeel Rajab. The prisons are overflowing. Every time a slot is available, someone else is arrested

Faisal Hayyat comments following the same thread of thoughts:

They arrest Ali Salman, they release Ibrahim Sharif; they arrest Sharif and then release Nabeel Rajab. Who is next up for arrest?

Ali Salman is the secretary-general of Al Wefaq Islamic Society, who was sentenced to four years in prison three days prior to Sharif's release. Salman, who was arrested on December 28, 2014, was convicted of inciting disobedience and hatred against the regime. Sharif, who is now held pending investigation, is being accused of  “inciting hatred and calling for violence to gain political change.”

And while Rajab is free today, his freedom is threatened with what he disseminates on that micro-blogging site which allows users to share with the world their thoughts, experiences and feelings 140 characters at a time. Bahrain Watch member John Horne cautions:

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