Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini human rights activists, has been released on bail, according to his lawyer.
Rajab, the director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was arrested earlier this monthat Manama’s international airport after returning from Lebanon.
He was charged with “inciting illegal rallies” through social networking websites, and with “defaming” Bahrain’s security forces.
Rajab was released on 300 dinars ($800) bail, but still faces a travel ban, his lawyer, Mohamed al-Jishi, said on Monday. The next hearing is scheduled for June 17.
Rajab, one of the most prominent figures in the nearly 18-month pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain, has been detained, questioned and beaten repeatedly by security forces. He rejected the charges against him during a court session earlier this month, describing his arrest as “a political decision”.
“I only practised my right to free expression,” he told the court. “I did not commit a crime.”
The case against Rajab has been widely criticised by local and international human rights groups.
Al-Khawaja ends hunger strike
Meanwhile, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the jailed Bahraini activist who has spent the last four months on hunger strike, ended a more than three-month-long hunger strike on Monday after what he described as his success in drawing attention to the issue of imprisoned activists, his wife and lawyer said.
“He has stopped his hunger strike,” Khadija Almousawi, al-Khawaja’s wife, told Reuters news agency by telephone from Manama, after she received a call from al-Khawaja on Monday evening.
“Despite not succeeding until now to achieve the direct demand of his hunger strike which is to be freed … he has decided to stop his hunger and agree on a medical programme to return to normal eating conditions,” read a statement carried by Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.
“It’s very good news,” his daughter Maryam al-Khawaja said of her father’s decision. “We supported him in that position, but now we’ll worry less because his life won’t be at risk.”
Al-Khawaja started his hunger strike in February to protest against his detention, and that of numerous other activists behind bars. He was one of 14 prominent opposition figures arrested last year and convicted by a military court.
It has been difficult to obtain detailed information about al-Khawaja’s health, because the Bahraini government has blocked most outside experts – and, at times, even his relatives – from visiting him. A source with knowledge of his condition last month described it as “critical,” and said al-Khawaja had lost nearly one-fifth of his body weight.
Family members say he has been force-fed on several occasions by doctors in the hospital where he is being held.