Bahrain’s court of appeal should overturn a lower court conviction for illegal assembly against the human rights activist Nabeel Rajab and cancel his three-year prison term, Human Rights Watch said in a statement issued on Sunday.
Because the authorities have presented no evidence that he advocated or participated in violence, his conviction is a violation of his right to freedom of peaceful assembly, Human Rights Watch said.
The court is scheduled to hear Rajab’s appeal on October 16, 2012.
A criminal court sentenced Rajab on August 16 to three years in prison for organizing and participating in three demonstrations between January and March 2012. Rajab is president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and a member of the advisory committee of the Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Division.
“The criminal court verdict cites no evidence – not even an allegation– that Nabeel Rajab participated in or advocated violent protests,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “He has the basic right to peaceful assembly and shouldn’t be sent to prison for that.”
The Public Prosecution Office charged Rajab under article 178 of the Penal Code, which prohibits unauthorized gatherings of five or more people in a public place with the “purpose of committing crimes” or “undermining public security, even if intended to achieve legitimate purpose.”
A public prosecution official told Bahraini media that that Rajab had incited violence.