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Bahrain acquits leading rights activist


A leading Bahraini human rights activist said on Monday a court had acquitted him of charges of spreading false news on Twitter after he had been arrested during a protest rally late last year.

Yousif al-Muhafda, deputy head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was released on bail in January after being detained at a demonstration in Manama in December.

At the time, he told Al-Akhbar that he was kept one month in a police station holding cell during an investigation into the charges.

Bahrain’s authorities had charged him with disseminating false information during a December 17 protest after tweeting a picture of a man suffering from a bird shot wound to the leg.

Unauthorized rallies and gatherings are banned in Bahrain, which has been in turmoil since a popular, anti-government uprising erupted in February 2011.

"The court acquitted me today, but I had spent a month in jail," Muhafda told Reuters by telephone from Geneva.

Bahrain, where the US Navy's Fifth Fleet is based, has stepped up efforts to stamp out the unrest in recent months and dozens of activists have been arrested or jailed for organizing or taking part in protests.

Earlier this month rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja was sentenced to three months in jail for insulting a police officer after an appeal court overturned her earlier acquittal.

Muhafda was detained in November for one week on charges of taking part in an illegal gathering and an unauthorized march.

Bahrain's ruling Khalifa family used martial law and help from Gulf neighbors to crush 2011's uprising, but the small kingdom still witnesses almost daily protests.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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