The National Assembly of Bahrain [BBC backgrounder] on Sunday approved laws increasing penalties for those who commit or incite terrorism. The new laws also ban any demonstrations in the nation's capital, Manama. The laws were passed ahead of massive protests [CNN report] planned by the anti-government opposition bloc next month. Bahrain's National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) [advocacy website, in Arabic] praised [press release, in Arabic] the new laws as an effort to halt the "dangerous escalation" of unrest and political tensions.
Bahrain has faced civil unrest as Shiite-led protesters seek political empowerment in the Sunni-ruled country. Earlier in July 29 protesters were sentenced to one month in prison [JURIST report] for entering Pearl Square, the heavily fortified area that was once the center of Bahrain's anti-government uprising. Last month three protesters were sentenced to imprisonment [JURIST report] for taking party in anti-government protests as well as attempting to kill a police officer. In May a Bahrain court sentenced six individuals [JURIST report] to a year in prison for insulting King Hamad via Twitter. Also in May a Bahrain court issued 15-year prison sentences [JURIST report] to 31 protesters for their role in firebomb attacks as part of anti-government protests.