[JURIST] Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab [personal twitter account] was charged on Thursday with insulting the ministries of defense and interior over his tweets that alleged Bahrain's security institutions were the first incubators for extremist ideology. Without naming Rajab, the public prosecution statement ordered [Bahrain News Agency report] his referral in remand before the Third Lower Criminal Court on charges of tort and libel in public against official institutions. A court date is set for October 19. The charge carries a possible prison sentence of up to three years. Rajab, who is head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights [advocacy website], insists he was practicing his right to free speech. He previously served two years in prison for leading anti-government Shiite movements and was released in May.
Bahrain has faced international criticism for its crackdown against dissidents since anti-government protests began last year. A judge rejected [JURIST report] a request for conditional early release for Rajab in December. Rajab was initially sentenced to three years in prison, though his sentence was reduced to one year [JURIST report] after he had already served his sentence. In October 2012 Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Bahrain's court of appeals to overturn the conviction of Rajab [JURIST report]. Also in October the Bahrain Court of Cassation upheld jail sentences [JURIST report] for nine medics convicted for their involvement in Bahrain's pro-democracy uprising. According to Physicians for Human Rights [official website], at least 95 health workers were arrested in Bahrain only after some medics treated those hurt by security forces and spoke out against the crackdown against protesters, which included firing upon ambulances. Last month government officials pledged to fulfill [JURIST report] the 158 recommendations included in the UN Universal Periodic Review [materials] regarding human rights abuses against political opposition. HRW called on Bahrain to follow through with their promises, but raised doubts as to whether the government is fully committed to reform.