The head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) Nabeel Rajab has been sentenced on Thursday to 3 years in prison for "involvement in illegal practices and inciting gatherings and calling for unauthorised marches through social networking sites”, for his "participation in an illegal assembly" and for his “participation in an illegal gathering and calling for a march without prior notification”.
Nabeel Rajab's conviction comes a day after Said Yousif, another prominent activist, was beaten by police forces and detained for three hours.
Rajab, arguably the most prominent rights activist in Bahrain, was arrested on July 10 by masked men in balaclavas and plain clothes following his conviction for “tweeting” that the Prime Minister should resign. The final verdict on the defamation case will be handed down on August 23.
Rights groups, including Amnesty international, have repeatedly called on the release of the head of the BCHR. Last week, 19 U.S members of Congress called on the king of Bahrain Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa to release the rights activist.
The High Criminal Court of Appeal in Manama adjourned on Tuesday the retrial of 13 high-profile Bahraini dissidents, including co-founder of the BCHR Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja , who were originally sentenced by a military court in June 2011 to between two years and life in prison over their participation in last year’s uprising.
Activists say the Judge refused to deliver verdicts because detainees were chanting inside the court "with our souls, our blood, we give it up for you Bahrain [sic]". The 13 leading dissidents will appear in court on September 4.
Amnesty International has recognized all 13 activists as prisoners of conscience “held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly” and has called for their immediate release.
The Gulf kingdom has been experiencing turmoil for more than a year. The Shi'ite community, which constitutes the majority of the Bahraini population, say they feel marginalized by the Sunni ruling family and demand democratic reforms. According to activists more than 80 people have died in the country's uprising which started in February last year.