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Bahrain arrests Twitter users, Arab leaders warn of social media "extremism"


Bahraini authorities have detained six people for allegedly defaming the country's ruler on Twitter, according to the country’s public prosecutor’s office.

The six, who were not identified, join a growing list of anti-government activists caught up in an Internet crackdown by authorities in the Gulf nation.

Meanwhile, Arab interior ministers warned of the spread of extremism through social media networks at a security meeting in Riyadh Wednesday.

“Extremist thought... on social networks has resulted in a major increase in terrorist acts, political assassinations and sectarian conflicts," Mohammed Kuman, head of the council of Arab interior ministers said in an opening speech.

The Bahraini prosecutor's statement Wednesday said the activists, who were detained over the past couple of days, will be charged with misusing Twitter and insulting King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.

The arrests come two days after a court acquitted rights activist Mohammed al-Jishi of spreading false news on Twitter. He is one of dozens to face charges for posting comments on social media.

Bahrain has detained thousands of activists who it frequently accused of “setting up terror groups to topple the regime” and spreading extremism.

Government forces have killed over 100 protesters and injured many more over the past two years.

Like many other countries in the region, Bahrain has witnessed a massive pro-democracy movement since February 2011.

Saudi troops entered the state in March 2011 to help authorities violently crush the revolt, but protests have persisted despite a ban being issued on public gatherings on 30 October 2012.

Even before the ban, all protests in Bahrain required government permission and government forces regularly employed widespread crackdowns on dissent.

Bahrain has so far refused to compromise on opposition demands for democratic reform, while Saudi Arabia has mulled a potential union with Bahrain to safeguard it from democratization.

The royal family, which has maintained a tight grip over Bahrain for more than a century, is a strategic US ally and hosts the US Fifth Fleet.

(Al-Akhbar, AP, AFP)

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