Bahrain sentences pro-democracy activist to 3 years in prison

A court in Bahrain has sentenced a prominent human rights activist to three years in prison for “defaming” the country’s king.

According to Amnesty International on Thursday, a court in the Bahraini capital city of Manama sentenced Zainab al-Khawaja to three years in prison for tearing up a photograph of the country’s ruler, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

The court also obligated Khawaja to pay a 3,000-Bahraini Dinar ($8,000-US dollar) fine for the same charge.

Khawaja was detained in October for tearing up the Bahraini king’s picture during a court session that was investigating other charges against her. She was temporarily released last month since she was eight months pregnant. Khawaja gave birth to a boy last week.

Amnesty International lashed out at the court’s verdict, urging the Bahraini government to drop all charges against Khawaja.

“Tearing up a photo of the head of state should not be a criminal offence. Amnesty International is calling for this and all of Zainab al-Khawaja’s other convictions to be quashed and all outstanding charges to be dropped,” Said Boumedouha, the deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International, said on Thursday.

Zainab is the daughter of Abdel-Hadi al-Khawaja, a famous pro-democracy activist and lawyer who is currently serving a life sentence for what a court has called attempts to overthrow Bahrain’s monarchy.

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous rallies in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.

Bahrain has been severely criticized by human rights groups for its harsh crackdown on anti-government protesters, which has claimed the lives of scores of people so far.


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