Nabeel Rajab is acquitted over insulting tweet

Bahrain court acquits Nabeel Rajab over ‘insulting’ tweet

Human rights and democracy activist remains in jail as he awaits appeal hearings on other convictions for inciting protest, Thursday 23 August 2012 14.27 BST

An appeal court in Bahrain has acquitted the activist Nabeel Rajab of insulting Bahrainis after he criticised the prime minister in a tweet, his lawyer said. But Rajab remains in jail over other convictions.

Rajab, founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was sentenced in July to three months in prison for suggesting via Twitter that residents of al-Muharraq district were paid to show support for Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the prime minister.

“The judge ruled his innocence. Nabeel and representatives of many foreign embassies were present. I was able to meet him for a few minutes,” his lawyer, Mohammed al-Jishi, told Reuters. The state news agency, BNA, said the appeal judge acquitted Rajab because he was not satisfied with the evidence.

Rajab has led many demonstrations calling for a reduction in the powers of the Khalifa dynasty that has long ruled the Gulf Arab state. Analysts see the prime minister as a bulwark against opposition demands.

But Rajab – a hero to protesters but a villain to Bahrainis who fear unrest will help sweep Shia Islamists to power – was also sentenced to three years in prison last week on three charges of leading protests. Prosecutors said he had incited violence against police.

Rights groups and western governments criticised the convictions and the appeal court was due to examine the case on 10 September.

Bahrain, where the US navy’s fifth fleet is based, has been in turmoil for 18 months, with the Shia majority calling for democratic reforms in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

Shia-led unrest has persisted since a period of martial law last year that put down the uprising. The sides trade blame for almost daily outbreaks of street violence.

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