Bahrain court jails two over anti-government social media posts

Bahrain court jails two over anti-government social media posts
2 min read
26 June, 2018
Activist Najah Ahmad Youssef, detained since April 2017, was jailed over Facebook comments criticising the Bahraini Grand Prix.
Bahrain authorities have jailed dozens of high-profile activists [Getty]
A Bahraini court on Monday sentenced activist Najah Ahmad Youssef to three years in jail over social media posts.

According to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Youssef was convicted in part over Facebook comments criticising the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix.

A statement from the Manama public prosecution said she was jailed for managing accounts on social networking sites "which published articles and videos promoting terrorist acts, incited hatred against the governing regime and collected funds to organize anti-government events".

A man was found guilty of helping her to run those social media accounts, who was also jailed for three years.

Together, "they broadcast false and biased news" about conditions in Bahrain and "promoted terrorist acts" in the kingdom, the prosecution statement said, without specifying the acts. The two individuals were not identified by the prosecutor.

Hours earlier, BIRD issued a statement condemning the verdict and identifying the woman as political activist Youssef.

It said Youssef had been targeted on "politically motivated charges" after criticising the kingdom's hosting of the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix. Youssef has been held in detention since April 2017, according to BIRD.

She was reportedly interrogated by officers of the National Security Agency (NSA) before being transferred to Isa Town Prison. Najah told BIRD that she was sexually assaulted, physically ill-treated and psychologically abused during her interrogation, which lasted four days. As a result, Najah was coerced into signing a pre-prepared confession, BIRD added.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at BIRD, said: "The case of Najah illustrates how activists risk suffering sexual assault by Bahraini security forces, simply for daring to exercise their right to freedom of expression. Najah’s conviction must be overturned and she must be released immediately."

Bahrain, a Shia-majority country located between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been ruled for more than two centuries by the al-Khalifa dynasty.

Authorities have jailed dozens of high-profile activists and disbanded both religious and secular opposition groups since protests demanding political change erupted in 2011.

They have stripped hundreds of those convicted of their citizenship, leaving many stateless.