Bahrain activist sentenced to 3 years for protests
An unexpectedly harsh sentence against Nabeel Rajab is likely to raise questions about the Sunni monarchy's commitment to reform.
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) -- A prominent Bahraini human rights activist was convicted Thursday of instigating and participating in several anti-government rallies inspired by Arab Spring uprisings across the region and sentenced to three years in jail.
The unexpectedly harsh sentence against Nabeel Rajab is likely to raise questions about the Western-backed Sunni monarchy's commitment to reform, and embolden anti-government protesters who have been demonstrating for the past 18 months, calling for greater rights in this Gulf island kingdom that is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th fleet.
The monarchy considers most anti-government rallies as "illegal gatherings" punishable by law.
Rajab, who is already serving a three-month sentence for posting anti-government comments on Twitter, was in court for the verdict. He is the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
Rajab's attorney Mohammed al-Jishi said his client was sentenced to a year in prison for each of three protests he took part in, bringing the total sentence to three years. Al-Jishi said he plans to appeal the ruling.
"What happen today in the court room shows clearly there is no justice or independent judiciary," said Rajab's wife Sumayia, who was also in court with her son and daughter. "My husband is not a criminal but a hostage of a government which can't stand freedom of expression and freedom of assembly."
In a separate case involving comments made on social media site Twitter, a judge delayed issuing a verdict against Rajab's appeal until Aug. 23.
Bahrain has experienced near-daily protests since February 2011, following an uprising by the kingdom's Shiite majority seeking greater political rights from the Western-backed Sunni monarchy. At least 50 people have died in the unrest and hundreds have been detained, including prominent rights activists and Shiite opposition leaders.