DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Bahraini activist Ibrahim Sharif was freed from prison on Monday after serving a yearlong sentence over comments supporting political change in the kingdom, his supporters and family said.
Sharif is the former secretary-general of the secular, leftist National Democratic Action Society, which also goes by the Arabic name Waad. He is one of several civil society activists jailed in the tiny island kingdom since Arab Spring-inspired protests seeking greater political rights erupted more than five years ago.
Sharif was most recently arrested last July over a speech supporting the protest movement, and was convicted in February of inciting hatred. He had been out of prison for less than a month when he was detained, having just served more than four years behind bars following a conviction by a military-led tribunal for his role in the uprising.
Bahrain's Sunni-ruled government crushed the 2011 protests, which were dominated by the country's Shiite majority, but low-level unrest continues.
Waad confirmed Sharif's release, posting pictures of him greeting well-wishers online. The organization, which along with Amnesty International has described him as a prisoner of conscience, urged authorities to drop an outstanding appeal brought by prosecutors against him.
Sharif's release follows an intensified crackdown on civil society activists in Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. Authorities in recent weeks have suspended of the country's largest Shiite opposition group, detained prominent rights activist Nabeel Rajab and stripped the citizenship of leading Shiite cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim.
The office of the U.N. human rights chief last month urged authorities to deescalate the crackdown and ensure activists don't face undue pressure.
The London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy warned that Sharif could still be arrested again if prosecutors win their appeal asking for a longer sentence against him.
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