Bahrain’s top court has rejected a final appeal by a prominent activist who was imprisoned for criticising Saudi Arabia’s air strikes in Yemen and accusing Bahrain’s prison authorities of torture.
The verdict on Monday upheld a five-year prison sentence handed to Nabeel Rajab in February, according to a lawyer and a judicial source.
“The Court of Cassation rejected the appeal and upheld the sentence of five years in prison against Nabeel Rajab for his tweets,” his lawyer, Mohamed Al Jishi, told Reuters by phone.
Bahrain, where a Sunni Muslim royal family rules over a Shia-majority population, has kept a tight lid on dissent since the Shia opposition staged a failed uprising in 2011.
Rajab, a leading figure in the 2011 pro-democracy protests, was sentenced for comments he made online accusing Bahraini authorities of prison abuse and critcising Saudi Arabia’s role in the war in Yemen.
The convictions were for “spreading false news and rumours in time of war”, “insulting foreign countries” and “insulting publicly the interior ministry” in comments posted on Twitter, a court document see by Reuters showed.
One charge related to a social media post on March 26, 2015, the day that Saudi Arabia launched an intervention in the Yemeni civil war.
The post criticised wars that “bring hatred, destruction and horrors”.
Rajab is also serving a second two-year term in a separate case.
International rights groups have previously denounced the ruling and the United States has expressed concern about Rajab’s case.
Bahrain has shut down the main opposition groups in the country, barred their members from running in elections and prosecuted scores of people, many described by human rights groups as activists, in mass trials.