DUBAI Dec 22 Bahraini authorities have
questioned detained activist Nabeel Rajab about an article under
his name in France's Le Monde daily containing what they called
misinformation and "false rumours" about Gulf Arab states.
An interior ministry statement announcing this on Thursday
also said it had referred its case against Rajab, one of the
Arab world's most prominent human rights activists, to the
kingdom's public prosecutors. It gave no other details.
Rajab is already on trial on charges of spreading false
information about Bahrain and "disseminating rumours at a time
of war," a reference to Yemen, where a coalition of Arab
countries including Bahrain is fighting the Iranian-allied
It was not clear if Rajab, a leader of a 2011 pro-democracy
uprising led by Bahrain's Shi'ite Muslim majority, was being
questioned about the Le Monde article in the context of his
current trial or in possible preparation for a separate lawsuit.
The ministry's statement said its cybercrime unit had
"monitored an article in Le Monde ascribed to Nabeel Rajab and
comprising misinformation and false rumours against of the
Kingdom of Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
countries in a bid to harm their national interests."
When questioned, Rajab denied writing the article, the
ministry said. Activists challenged that, saying that article
and one he wrote for the New York Times in September showed he
championed human rights in the face of repression.
The Le Monde article carrying Rabaj's byline said Western
nations should reconsider their support for Gulf Arab monarchies
because they were fuelling Islamist extremism.
Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has a Shi'ite
majority but a Sunni Muslim-led government, mainly drawn from
the ruling al-Khalifa family. Seen by other Sunni-ruled Gulf
kingdoms like Saudi Arabia as a bulwark against Iranian
influence, it put down Arab Spring protests in 2011.
Rajab, who has been detained repeatedly since 2011, was
arrested in June on charges related to anti-government tweets
published last year, including one accusing the security forces
of torturing detainees. In September 2016, prosecutors filed
further charges accusing him of damaging Bahrain's reputation.
The United States has called for his release.
His trial has coincided with what rights groups say is an
escalating crackdown on opposition groups and rights activists.
The Bahraini government denies systematic rights abuses.
(Reporting by William Maclean; Editing by Tom Heneghan)