Bahrain extends detention of leading activist by two weeks

2 min

Dubai (AFP)

Bahrain's prosecution on Thursday extended by two weeks the detention of Shiite opposition leader Nabil Rajab over spreading "false information" about the Sunni-ruled kingdom, his lawyer said.

The human rights activist "was interrogated by the prosecution, who decided to extend his pre-trial detention by 15 days over the accusation of spreading rumours and false information," Mohammed al-Jishi said.

This accusation is linked to television interviews given by Rajab in 2014 and 2015, the lawyer said, adding a request to free him had been rejected.

On December 28, the prosecution said Rajab would remain in custody to be questioned over "spreading false news about the situation in the kingdom", despite being granted bail in another case over tweets deemed hostile to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, for which the next hearing is on January 23.

In that case he is accused of "spreading false news and rumours and inciting propaganda during wartime which could undermine the war operations by the Bahraini armed forces and weaken the nation".

Bahrain is part of a Saudi-led coalition since March 2015 battling Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen.

Rajab, who had been pardoned for health reasons last year, was rearrested in June and is on trial on a list of charges, including insulting a state institution and Saudi Arabia in online postings.

Rajab was questioned recently in custody over letters critical of the authorities that were published in September in The New York Times and in December in French daily Le Monde.

Several rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have pressed Bahrain's authorities to release Rajab, a co-founder and president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

Rajab has been repeatedly detained for organising protests and publishing tweets deemed insulting to the Gulf state's Sunni authorities.

He previously served two years in jail on charges of taking part in unauthorised protests in the Shiite-majority kingdom.

Home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, Bahrain has been rocked by unrest since security forces crushed Shiite-led protests in 2011 demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.