Bahrain rights activist sentenced to five years in prison

5 year jail term for Bahrain activist Nabeel Rajab

Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was sentenced Wednesday to five years in jail for posting tweets alleging prison torture in Bahrain and misconduct by Saudi Arabia during its intervention in the Yemen conflict.

The charges in that case stemmed from television interviews during which Rajab merely told journalists that Manama bars reporters and human rights workers from entering Bahrain.

The prominent activist is already serving a separate two-year sentence for spreading "false or malicious" information.

Rajab has been taken to hospital several times during his most recent incarceration after he suffered heart problems and ulcers. He was convicted under laws that prohibit "insulting a foreign country" and "insulting national institutions", according to The Guardian.

Amnesty International also slammed the ruling as a "shameful attack on freedom of expression".

He was sentenced in August 2012 to three years in prison for allegedly fomenting clashes between police and protesters.

A sealed charge was filed in Washington in their case on Wednesday, and it's not known what it is about or who faces those additional federal charges.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa pardoned Rajab in July 2015 over concerns about his health after the activist served some three months in prison.

The new sentence is based on Rajab's tweets on the Saudi-led military operations in Yemen, which have killed thousands of civilians, and on alleged torture in Jaw Prison.

He is also under investigation for writing in the French newspaper Le Monde that Western countries should reconsider their support for Gulf Arab monarchies because they were fuelling Islamist extremism.

Rajab has been a critic of the sectarian divide between the majority Shia population and the island's minority, ruling Sunni government. The first parliamentary elections since 1973 were held in 2002. They joined pro-democracy activists in demanding more political freedoms in 2011, as Arab Spring protests swept the wider Middle East. Saudi and Emirati troops ultimately helped violently put down the demonstrations. Independent news gathering in Bahrain also has grown more hard, with the government refusing to accredit two AP reporters and others while shutting down a prominent local independent newspaper.

The rights group also pointed to similar pending charges against the activist.

"We are appalled by the way the Bahraini authorities are persecuting a man whose only crime has been to use his right to free speech to draw attention to human rights violations", RSF said.

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