Bahraini 'Angry Arabiya' activist jailed for insulting king

Bahraini 'Angry Arabiya' activist jailed for insulting king
Opposition figurehead Zainab al-Khawaja sentenced to three years in prison after tearing up photo of Bahrain's king - days after her sister, Maryam, was also jailed for a year.
3 min read
06 December, 2014
Zainab al-Khawaja has been imprisoned several times for her activist opposition to Bahrain's rulers [Getty]
Human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja has been sentenced by a court in Bahrain to three years in prison for insulting the king. 

The 29-year-old has been a well known figure in the pro-democracy demonstrations against the monarchy in Bahrain since 2011. 

The activist, who rose to international prominence with her @angryarabiya Twitter profile, had torn up a photo of the island nation's King Hamad during a court hearing.

She has previously served a year in prison for taking part in an illegal gathering.

The sentence follows Monday's sentencing in absentia of her sister, Maryam, who lives in exile, to a year in prison for "assaulting police officers" while being searched at Bahrain airport. 

Maryam al-Khawaja is co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). She rose to prominence during the anti-government demonstrations in 2011 with her live coverage of events on Twitter.

They are the daughters of Shia opposition figure Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is currently serving a life after being accused of plotting to overthrow the monarchy.

Amnesty International called for all charges against the family to be dropped.


Deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa Said Boumedouha said that if she is imprisoned on the basis of this conviction, Amnesty "will consider her a prisoner of conscience and campaign for the authorities in Bahrain to release her, along with her father Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and all the other prisoners of conscience languishing behind bars".

The GCHR has expressed concern on its website for the "on-going judicial harrassment" of Zainab al-Khawaja and her sister. 

Khawaja has been convicted on three different charges since demonstrations began. 

Bahrain is the only Shia-majority country in the Arabian Gulf. The Shia on the island have been objecting to discrimination against them by the Sunni monarchy. 

The demonstrations were put down by the Bahraini government in 2011 with the help of troops sent from the UAE and Saudi Arabia. There have been dozens of deaths and more than 2,000 arrests in the clashes since they began. 

Bahrain is an important strategic ally of the West. It is the base of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, and the UK has a strong naval presence at Mina Salmon Port. Britain is to establish a more permanent naval base there, which will be one of its most important globally.

British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond signed the agreement with Bahrain at a security conference in Manama on Saturday. The UK is to pay on-going costs, while Bahrain will pay most of the £15 million required to host destroyers and new aircraft carriers. 

"To our partners in the Gulf my message is this: your security concerns are our security concerns," Hammond said.

Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and opposition politician, told the Independent newspaper that the base was "a reward to the British government for the silence they provided on human rights abuses in Bahrain, and for their continued support of this tyrannical and corrupt regime".