Bahrain activist's sentence reduced to 1 year in prison

AP News
Posted: Oct 21, 2015 10:05 AM
Bahrain activist's sentence reduced to 1 year in prison

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A prominent Bahraini human rights activist charged over tearing up a picture of the island's king saw her sentence reduced to a year in prison Wednesday, though her lawyer said she would refuse to turn herself in.

The Bahraini appeals court decision on Zainab al-Khawaja's case comes as turmoil continues between the country's Shiite majority and its Sunni monarchy as the annual Ashoura commemoration nears.

Al-Khawaja, a member of Bahrain's most prominent opposition family, was detained in October 2014 after she tore up a photo of King Hamad while facing charges for two previous incidents of tearing up the king's photo. She spent a month in prison before being released.

The court's decision Wednesday cut her three-year sentence down to one year and a 3,000 dinar ($8,000) fine, defense lawyer Mohammed al-Wasti said.

Human rights activists criticized the court decision, with Amnesty International calling it "the latest example of the authorities' total disregard for the right to freedom of expression." Brian Dooley of the Washington-based group Human Rights First said by imprisoning al-Khawaja, "the Bahrain government is throwing away its chance of having her help the country out of its crisis."

Al-Khawaja's father is serving a life sentence for his role in Shiite-led protests in 2011. Her sister lives in exile in Denmark.

Banning Straws
John Stossel

Her new sentence comes after clashes Tuesday over Bahraini police removing decorations marking the Shiite religious commemoration of Ashoura.

On Wednesday, public security chief Maj. Gen. Tariq al-Hassan said in a statement that authorities respect religious occasions including Ashoura, but decorations hindering traffic and unrelated "political signs and decorations" will be removed. He said police on Tuesday responded against "law breakers" who attacked police with gasoline bombs and a homemade gun.