Middle East

Bahrain activist jailed for five years over Twitter comments

Nabeel Rajab speaks during the presentation of a report at the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) in Manama, Bahrain, 22 November 2011 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Nabeel Rajab - photographed here in 2011 - has been in and out of prison for seven years

Bahrain has sentenced a well-known rights activist to five years in prison over his social media posts.

Nabeel Rajab - a key figure in 2011's pro-democracy protests - was convicted over posts on Twitter about the alleged torture of prisoners in the country.

He also criticised Saudi Arabia's actions in war-torn Yemen.

Amnesty International called for his immediate release, labelling the sentence "a slap in the face to justice."

The prominent activist is already serving a separate two-year sentence for spreading "false or malicious" information.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights - of which Nabeel Rajab is president - said he was convicted on "trumped-up charges" following "a trial that was by itself a mockery of justice".

Its president had denounced "the torture against detainees at Jaw prison" and "the killing of civilians in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition", it said.

As a result, he was tried on charges of disseminating false rumours in time of war, offending a foreign country, and insulting a statutory body.

A Twitter account believed to belong to the activist's son, Adam, also confirmed the news.

"His first reaction after the verdict was laughing and raising the sign of steadfastness," he said.

It is not the first time the activist has been sentenced for a tweet - he was sent to prison for six months in 2015 on similar charges.

He has been in and out of jail since he helped lead a pro-democracy uprising in 2011. His current two-year sentence was handed down in July 2017 for "broadcasting fake news" after a court ruled that he had undermined the "prestige" of the kingdom.

He has suffered from poor health, however, and has been transferred to hospital several times. His recent applications for bail on the basis of his health have been denied.

Amnesty International said the sentence was "absolutely outrageous" .

"This sentence demonstrates the authorities' ruthless determination to crush all forms of dissent and leaves no room for doubt about the extreme lengths to which they are willing to go to in order to silence peaceful critics," regional director Heba Morayef said.

The rights group also pointed to similar pending charges against the activist.

He has been charged in connection with an open letter published in the New York Times, and over an Instagram post featuring an image of Bahrain's king with an excerpt from the Koran, Amnesty said.

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