Bahrain court sentences political activist to prison for insulting king

Bahrain court sentences political activist to prison for insulting king

[JURIST] The Bahrain Court of Appeals convicted rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja on charges related to her ripping up a photo of the Bahraini king during a court hearing in 2014, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] said Wednesday. Her appeal reduced her charges for insulting the king from three years to one year in prison. She has also been fined 3,000 Bahraini dinars (USD $7,953.34), and if she fails to pay the fine her prison term may be extended by a year-and-a-half. She previously spent almost a year-and-a-half in prison and has been arrested and released three times since December 2011. Presently she is appealing three separate convictions against her, including a four-sentence for two charges of “destroying public property” and a one-year sentence for “insulting a police officer” while visiting her father in jail. Zainab al-Khawaja is the daughter of prominent activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja [BBC profile], who is currently in prison for life for his participation in pro-democracy protests in 2011.

Tension related to freedom of expression has persisted in Bahrain for many years. Last month 32 nations joined a statement [JURIST report] read to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] regarding human rights concerns in Bahrain. The message, read by a representative of Switzerland, urged Bahrain to protect citizens’ freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression and to investigate reports of torture in prisons. In April AI reported that reforms in Bahrain failed to end [JURIST report] serious human rights violations. The report detailed the continued jailing of activists and mistreatment of detainees. In February a Bahraini court found 11 Shiites guilty [JURIST report] attacking police in 2013, and three Shiites were later sentenced to death. The other eight defendants were handed life sentences and stripped of their citizenship. Also in February Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior initiated a criminal investigation [JURIST report] into alleged criminal content posted by the Al-Wefaq opposition group.