A Bahrain court has sentenced activist Nabeel Rajab to 3 years in prison. The court convicted Rajab for participating in unauthorized protests against the monarchy. The Al-Khalifa monarchy is Sunni whereas the majority in Bahrain are Shia. Rajab's lawyer commented:“It is a very stiff and unexpected ruling, I am surprised. They are peaceful protests, not violent ones."Some other protesters charged with similar offences were given a maximum of six months. The defense team plans to appeal the sentence.Rajab was sentenced to one year each for three different offenses. Rajab has made repeated calls for the king Salman al-Khalifa to step down.
Rajab is head of the Bahrain Center for Human Right. Rajab had been in jail since June 6 when he was jail for insults on Twitter directed against some members of the Sunni community Rajab was one of the leaders of anti-government protests in March of last year. Perhaps the Bahraini authorities want to make an example of him. Rajab has demonstrated inside the capital Manama. Most demonstrations happen in small villages as many protest leaders decided it was just too dangerous to demonstrate in Manama after the violent crackdowns last year.
Since February 2011 at least fifty people have been killed in Bahrain. Those detained include many Shiite opposition leaders and human rights activists. The deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Middle East area Joe Stork said:“The government has yet to show that Nabeel Rajab did any more than exercise his right to free expression and peaceful assembly. He should be set free, not sent away from his family to prison.” There have been many criticisms of Bahrain by international human rights group. However the U.S. has said relatively little as Bahrain is a close ally of the U.S. and Bahrain is headquarters for the U.S. fifth fleet. The U.S. has even renewed arms shipments to Bahrain. For more see this article.