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Why this is important
On Thursday 16th August the Bahrain Court sentenced Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, to 3 years in prison on three separate counts of "illegal assembly".
He was already serving a 3 month sentence for sending a message on Twitter criticising the Prime Minister of Bahrain, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.
The same prime minister, who has held office for more than 40 years, has just set up a "High Coordinating Committee for Human Rights". In Bahrain this is seen as a joke.
In fact the Al Khalifa family have been controlling Bahrain for more than 200 years, half the cabinet are family members and the extended family controls all important posts in Bahrain, including the judiciary.
The decision to imprison Nabeel Rajab for 3 years is purely political in order to prevent him from encouraging others to demand their universal right to democracy, freedom of expression, equality and freedom of assembly.
Under the guise of pretending reform the Al Khalifa family has ruthlessly suppressed dissent, imprisoned many protesters on false charges and critically injured and killed many of its civilian population.
Many of Bahrain's senior officials, including members of the royal family, have been accused of torturing detainees - but none have been brought to justice.
Nabeel Rajab is an internationally known human rights activist who is also a director of the Gulf Center for Human rights and an adviser to Human Rights Watch in the USA. In 2011 he was awarded the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award because he "has worked tirelessly and at considerable personal peril to advance the cause of democratic freedoms and the civil rights of Bahraini citizens".
The US and the UK, while saying they support democracy and freedom elsewhere, have been slow to pressurise the Government of Bahrain to reform because of their mutual interests of opposing Iran across the Gulf.
Yet even the US State Department and the UK Foreign Office have commented on the 3 year sentence imposed on Nabeel Rajab as "disproportionate".
It is now time that the US, the UK and the UN take positive and effective action to get Nabeel Rajab set free.
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