Middle East
Bahraini activist jailed for three years
Nabeel Rajab given one year for each of three cases related to participating in peaceful protests in island kingdom.
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2012 12:12
Rajab had recently been handed three months for controversial tweets slating Sunni communities [EPA]

A prominent Bahraini activist has been jailed for three years for instigating and participating in "unauthorised" protests against the Sunni Al Khalifa monarchy, his lawyer says.

Mohammed al-Jishi said on Thursday that Nabeel Rajab was given one year for each of the three cases all related to participating in peaceful protests.

"It is a very stiff and unexpected ruling, I am surprised. They are peaceful protests, not violent ones," Jishi said. 

The verdict is likely to undermine a US call for dialogue to defuse political tension on the island.  

Bahrain, in turmoil since pro-democracy protests led by its Shia Muslim majority erupted last year after successful revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, is a US ally and is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Rajab, a Shia, has led many protests during the uprising against the wide powers of the Sunni Al Khalifa dynasty that rules the island kingdom.

He had been held in custody since June 6 for allegedly insulting the Sunni community on social-networking platforms.

Critical of prime minister

Rajab, who serves as president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, has made repeated calls on Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa to step down as prime minister.

He has also been accused of insulting residents of the mostly Sunni Muharaq province, claiming they only welcomed the prime minister’s visit to their city because he had offered them subsidies.

The Shia community has been buoyed by Rajab’s courage for greater rights in Bahrain and continues to stage sporadic demonstrations in villages since last year's crackdown.

Leading international human rights groups have criticised Bahrain over last year's crackdown on demonstrations that were inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings.

The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), for which Rajab serves as deputy secretary general, condemned the jail term.

Souhayr Belhassen, the FIDH president, said: "Arbitrarily imprisoning human rights defenders will not stop the people from aspiring to freedom and democratic change."

"We hope that the international community will firmly condemn this decision and will call for Nabeel's release," she added.

Nearly 20 US politicians have supported the campaign for Rajab's immediate release.

Rajab's lawyer said he would appeal the court's decision. 

358

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lacking cohesive local ground forces to attack in tandem, coalition air strikes will have limited effect, experts say.
Hindu right-wing groups run campaign against what they say is Muslim conspiracy to convert Hindu girls into Islam.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
Muslim caretakers maintain three synagogues in eastern Indian city, which was once home to a thriving Jewish community.
Amid fresh ISIL gains, officials in Anbar province have urged the Iraqi government to request foreign ground troops.