Middle East

Bahrain activist Zainab al-Khawaja sentenced to jail

Zainab al-Khawaja at a protest in Manama (18 April 2012)
Image caption Zainab al-Khawaja has been detained and imprisoned several times since February 2011

A court in Bahrain has sentenced pro-democracy activist Zainab al-Khawaja to one month in prison.

Ms Khawaja was found guilty of entering the "prohibited area" of the former site of Pearl Roundabout in Manama - the focus of last year's unrest.

Her lawyers had argued that the authorities had never announced officially a ban on access to the site.

Prosecutors also ordered Ms Khawaja's detention for a week on charges of inciting hatred against the government.

Ms Khawaja has been detained several times since February 2011. In September she was sentenced to two months in prison for damaging public property in a police station. Her lawyer said she had torn up a picture of the king.

Her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, is among eight activists and opposition figures sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly plotting to overthrow the state.

Policemen charged

In a separate development, prosecutors said they had charged eight policemen with torturing detainees, according to AFP news agency.

It quoted state media as saying five cases had been referred to special courts, and that the officers were accused of a range of offences, including "using torture to force a defendant to confess".

The report came a day after US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner urged Bahraini authorities needed to prosecute officials responsible for human rights violations.

"To create a climate where dialogue and reconciliation is possible, the government needs to prosecute those officials responsible for the human rights violations that occurred in early 2011," he said while in Manama.

"It also should drop charges against all persons accused of offenses involving non-violent political expression and freedom of assembly."

At least 60 people, including several police officers, have been killed, and thousands injured and jailed, since Bahraini protesters began demanding more democracy and an end to what they said was discrimination against the majority Shia Muslim community by the Sunni royal family.

Also on Sunday, the opposition group al-Wifaq welcomed a call made by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa to renew dialogue.

"From the very beginning, the opposition has opted for peaceful means to gain democracy," it said.

On Friday, the prince told the Manama Dialogue conference: "We had our own experience of the so-called Arab Spring last year. It divided the nation, and many wounds are still to be healed."