DUBAI: High-profile Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to a further five years in jail on Wednesday over tweets critical of the war in Yemen, a judicial source and human rights groups said.
Rajab, a leading figure in 2011 protests against the Gulf state’s Sunni minority rulers, was already serving a two-year sentence handed down last July for “disseminating rumours and false information” in television interviews critical of the government.
He has served multiple stints in prison since 2012, all linked to his role in the protests.
In the latest case, Rajab was found guilty of insulting a neighbouring country and spreading false news and rumours, a judicial source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The charges are linked to tweets and retweets made via Rajab’s account and critical of a Saudi-led coalition, including Bahrain, that has been fighting in Yemen in support of its beleaguered government since 2015.
The charges also relate to tweets critical of Bahrain’s treatment of inmates at the notorious Jaw prison, south of the capital Manama.
The kingdom’s leading human rights groups, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, confirmed the charges and sentence.
Rajab’s son Adam tweeted that his father’s “first reaction was to smile and flash the sign to hold strong”.
Human rights groups warned last month that they feared for the health of Rajab, who has been hospitalised multiple times in recent years.
The Gulf Center for Human Rights, the World Organisation Against Torture and the International Federation for Human Rights said the activist had been advised not to take his medication back in January over fears the government had interfered with the treatment.
Bahrain, a tiny Shiite-majority kingdom strategically located between Saudi Arabia and Iran, plays a key military role in the Gulf, hosting both the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a British military base that is under construction.
US President Donald Trump has eased restrictions on arms sales to Bahrain since taking office in January last year.
The kingdom later announced it had signed deals with US defence company Lockheed Martin for the acquisition of upgraded F-16 fighter jets.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday that Washington had “very serious concerns” about the case against Rajab, whom she called “a prominent human rights activist”.
Since 2011, Bahraini authorities have jailed dozens of high-profile activists and disbanded both religious and secular opposition groups.
They have stripped hundreds of those convicted of their citizenship, making many stateless, according to Amnesty International.
The government has accused Iranian authorities of backing the protest movement in a bid to overthrow it. Tehran denies any such aim. —AFP