Bahrain releases prominent activist Rajab, next hearing January 20

Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, pauses during a conference at the Swiss Press Club in Geneva June 18, 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

MANAMA (Reuters) - A Bahrain court released the founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, on Sunday and adjourned his trial over remarks critical of the state until Jan. 20, according to Rajab’s Twitter account.

One of the most high-profile democracy campaigners in the Arab world, Rajab took a leading role in Shi’ite-led mass demonstrations in Bahrain in 2011 which asked for reforms in the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab kingdom, inspired by other pro-democracy uprisings in the Arab world.

He was jailed in May 2012 on charges of organizing and participating in illegal protests and released two years later.

Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior said in October that Rajab had been summoned for questioning “regarding tweets posted on his Twitter account that denigrated government institutions”.

His detention, which was confirmed by an associate of Rajab writing on his Twitter account, was condemned by international civil society groups.

The Public Prosecution said at the time it had charged a person and had detained him for questioning, without naming the individual, and said via Twitter that the detained person had confessed to publishing the offending comments.

Rajab was released at a hearing on Sunday pending the continuation of the trial, according to his Twitter account.

Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based, quelled the 2011 protests but has since struggled to resolve political deadlock between the government and the opposition.

Many Shi’ites complain of political and economic discrimination, a charge the authorities deny.

Reporting By Farishta Saeed; Writing By Maha El Dahan; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall