Bahrain: Three religious reformers jailed for 'violating foundations of Islam'
Three self-styled religious reformers were jailed for a year in Bahrain on Thursday after being found guilty of violating the foundations of Islam, in a case that was condemned by rights campaigners and exposed divisions in the Gulf state's Shiite community.
The three, members of the Tajdeed ("Renewal") cultural society that advocates open discussion of religion, were sentenced by a criminal court for "violating the foundations of the Islamic faith and its origins and insulting the prophets", a public prosecution statement said.
The defendants - Jalal al-Qassab, Redha Rajab, and Mohammed Rajab - were tried over blogs and a YouTube series "about the lives of the messengers and prophets, which included a denial of what was mentioned in the Holy Koran regarding them and a mockery of what was mentioned", the statement added.
The public prosecution had requested the maximum two years' jail.
The group's work had drawn an angry response from some Shia clerics in Sunni-ruled Bahrain who said it was blasphemy and an attack on Islam.
Last month, Human Rights Watch urged authorities to "immediately drop all charges against the men and halt inflammatory public comments condemning the society on religious grounds".
Earlier this month, Tajdeed complained of "hate speech and incitement" at mosques and on social media targeting its members and their families.
Denouncing the court case, which followed submissions from the Ministry of Social Development and the Anti-Cybercrime Department, as "malicious", the group said it was merely "exercising its natural and legal right to conduct research, engage in analysis, study, and enlighten".
Pro-democracy protesters from Bahrain's Shia community hit the streets in 2011, prompting a crackdown that drew international condemnation.