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Bahrain refuses to release human rights activist who criticised the Western-backed kingdom

BAHRAIN today refused to release prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab who is serving five years in prison for social media posts critical of the authoritarian Gulf kingdom.

The country’s high appeals court refused a non-custodial sentence request for the punishment today, which was handed down in February 2018. Mr Rajab was sentenced for condemning Saudi air strikes on Yemen and exposing widespread torture in Bahrain’s notorious Jau prison.

Bahrain’s court of cassation upheld his sentence on December 31 2018. But recently introduced legislation allows alternative non-custodial sentencing, including fines and house arrest.

Mr Rajab’s lawyers have applied for alternative sentencing on numerous occasions but their requests have been turned down with no reason provided.

He was charged for spreading “in wartime false or malicious news, statements or rumours … to cause damage to military preparations for defending the state of Bahrain.”

His statements about Saudi Arabia led to charges of “insulting a neighbouring country,” while his comments about prison torture led him to be charged with “insulting national institutions.”

He had already been sentenced to two years in prison in July 2017 for “speaking to journalists.”

Despite ongoing oppression, including mass trials and torture, Britain and the US have maintained relations with the Bahraini government.

Donald Trump met with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa earlier this week, the latter saying Bahrain had signed a deal to purchase a US Patriot missile battery.

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy director Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei slammed today’s ruling and demanded Mr Rajab’s immediate and unconditional release.

“This is sadly what we have come to expect from Bahrain’s corrupt judicial system. Today’s decision to keep the country’s leading human rights defender behind bars is purely political and the latest shameful attempt to stifle dissent.

“Trump made clear yesterday that his administration intends to continue selling arms to Bahrain’s dictators while totally disregarding their appalling human rights record.”

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