Bahraini activist granted bail but not released

Reuters News
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Posted: May 20, 2012 10:18 AM
Bahraini activist granted bail but not released

DUBAI (Reuters) - A Bahraini court granted bail on Sunday to leading activist Nabeel Rajab, who is charged with insulting authorities in the Gulf Arab state, but he is still being held pending trial for a different case, his lawyer said.

Bahrain has been in turmoil since a democracy protest movement led by majority Shi'ites erupted last year following successful revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. The government has rejected opposition calls for an elected government and protests and clashes with police continue weekly.

Rajab, founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights who has led many protests that police have broken up, is facing two trials: one for "insulting an official authority" on Twitter and another for organizing illegal protests during more than a year of political unrest in the Gulf Arab state.

"The judge agreed to the request to free him (Rajab) on 300 Bahraini dinar ($800) bail with a travel ban, but he has not been released because he is being detained on another charge," said Rajab's lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi.

The Twitter case centers on four online messages that suggested the interior ministry had not carried out proper investigations into civilian deaths.

If convicted of organizing illegal demonstrations, Rajab could be jailed for up to two years, Jishi said last week.

Authorities, who dub the opposition Iranian lackeys, have vowed to "get tougher" on security as talks with the opposition hit a dead end but activists say the government just wants to find any way of keeping Rajab off the streets.

The desire to contain Shi'ite dissent in Bahrain and counter Iran's sway drove recent efforts to unify the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which stumbled at a meeting of their leaders last week.

Tens of thousands of mainly Shi'ite protesters rallied against the plan on Friday in Bahrain.

A day later, around five thousand Sunni government loyalists took to the streets to voice their support for closer integration with fellow Sunni-ruled Gulf states.

(Editing by Ralph Boulton)

(Reporting by Isabel Coles)