Bahrain activist acquitted but remains jailed
Published Thursday, August 23, 2012
A Bahrain appeals court on Thursday acquitted activist Nabeel Rajab, who had been sentenced to three months in jail for alleged insults isssued via Twitter, but he must still serve a three-year term for taking part in protests, a judicial source said.
The leading human rights activist had been handed a three-month term on July 9 for alleged insults made on Twitter to members of the Sunni community, which was overturned on Thursday.
Rajab will remain in jail, however, after he received a three-year sentence on August 16 for "unauthorized" protests against Bahrain's autocratic monarchy.
The head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Rajab led pro-democracy protests following a brutal crackdown on demonstrations against the regime in March 2011.
The activist had insisted on demonstrating inside Manama, unlike the main opposition which now stages protests in villages, after last year's clampdown on protesters who occupied the capital's Pearl Square for a month.
Human rights groups and Western countries slammed Rajab's three-year jail sentence, urging Bahrain to overturn the ruling.
Amnesty International called for Rajab's immediate release, describing his sentence as "a dark day for justice in Bahrain."
EU foreign affairs Chief Catherine Ashton said she expected "that this sentence...will be reconsidered in the appeal process."
The US and Britain also expressed their concern at the sentence, while the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) also voiced its opposition.
Bahrain, which is ruled by the Al-Khalifa dynasty, has come under strong criticism from international rights organizations over its crackdown on demonstrations that were inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings.
Protests have persisted nonetheless, but have failed to gain international support, largely due to the royal family's close ties to Washington.
The US bases its Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, and considers the tiny Gulf state a strategic ally on the doorstep of Iran.