TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - In a formal opinion posted overnight, the experts at the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that provisions of Bahrain's penal code were "so vague and overly broad" that people were punished for merely exercising their rights under international law.
"The Working Group therefore considers that Mr. Rajab’s deprivation of liberty is arbitrary," the panel said, adding that "no such trial" should have taken place.
The panel said that Rajab's political views were "clearly at the center of the present case and that the authorities have displayed an attitude towards him that can only be characterized as discriminatory.”
The experts said Rajab “has been the target of persecution, including deprivation of liberty, for many years and there is no other explanation for this except that he is exercising his right to express such views and convictions."
The UN panel of five independent experts said the activist, held since June 2016, should be released immediately and compensated.
The opinions of the panel are based on national obligations under international human rights law that they have ratified and are thus legally-binding in nature.
The Manama regime, in a statement, rejected the findings of the UN experts, saying Rajab's trials had been independent and transparent.
Separately, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, in a statement said, "The UN has now unequivocally found that Bahrain is arbitrarily detaining Nabeel Rajab in violation of numerous international legal standards – these vital findings cannot be ignored.”
He called for the kingdom’s allies, including Britain, to back the call for Rajab’s release, adding, "Anything short of that is a tacit endorsement [of] Bahrain’s patently criminal behavior."
Rajab, a leading figure in the pro-democracy protests, was sentenced to five years in prison in February for criticizing Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen and writing tweets accusing Bahrain's prison authorities of torture.