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Bahrain jails activist for insulting policeman



A Bahraini court on Thursday sentenced human rights defender Zainab al-Khawaja to three months in jail for “insulting a police officer,” one day after initially acquitting her of the charge, state media and activists said.

The court on Wednesday had originally dismissed that case, but handed the activist a one month sentence for taking part in an “illegal gathering,” and a two-month sentence over another charge.

But Bahrain’s public prosecution office filed an appeal after Khawaja spent the rest of the day protesting outside the government’s Qudaibiya Palace calling on authorities to release the body of a protester recently killed by security forces, an activist close to her said.

“She was sending a message that the people are not afraid to be sent to jail,” Yousif al-Muhafda, deputy head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, told Al-Akhbar.

Muhafda said that Khawaja, who has been in and out of prison since Bahrain’s anti-government uprising erupted two years ago, told him she would boycott all future court hearings and meetings with the public prosecution office.

“She said the public prosecution and the courts and judges are tools to suppress the people and human rights defenders,” Muhafda added. “She said that these are just show trials. The sentencing has already been decided before they begin.”

Khawaja, who is widely known by her Twitter pseudonym Angry Arabiya, had previously served a one-month prison sentence last May, and two-month term in September and October over charges related to her activism.

She was arrested again last December during a visit to a hospital to check up on a young patient who had his jaw blown off by security forces.

She is the daughter of a leading human rights defender also behind bars. Her father, Hadi al-Khawaja, is serving a life sentence over charges of “plotting against the state.”

More than 80 people have been killed since the start of the uprising in February 2011.

A Saudi-led Gulf force entered the island in March 2011 to help crush the rebellion, but the country still witnesses almost daily protests. The small but strategic kingdom is home to US Fifth Fleet.

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