TEHRAN (Press Shia) – A Bahraini court Monday sentenced prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab to two years in jail.
A Judicial source, quoted by the official Bahrain News Agency, said Rajab was convicted "of disseminating false news, statements and rumors about the internal situation of the kingdom that would undermine its prestige and status."
The verdict, which the source said can be appealed, was immediately condemned by Bahraini and international human rights watchdogs.
Rajab, 52, was sentenced in absentia as he has been hospitalized since April, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said.
BIRD denounced the verdict, saying Rajab had been sentenced "for speaking to journalists" and that he had "spent over a year in pretrial detention, largely in solitary confinement."
"His lawyer’s stated he was denied basic fair trial guarantees," the group said in a statement, AP reported.
The judicial source said, however, that "all legal guarantees" were provided to Rajab and that his lawyer was present for the proceedings.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of the Bahrain Institute strongly condemned the ruling.
"This outrageous sentence against someone speaking the truth exhibits the brutality of the Bahraini government and its heinous crimes and that of its kangaroo court," he said.
Amnesty International also denounced the decision, saying it exposes a “relentless campaign" by authorities in Bahrain "to wipe out dissent.”
"Imprisoning Nabeel Rajab simply for sharing his opinion is a flagrant violation of human rights, and an alarming sign that the Bahraini authorities will go to any length to silence criticism," Amnesty's Secretary General Salil Shetty said.
"Bahrain's government and judiciary have once again tightened their chokehold on freedom of expression and branded him [Rajab] a criminal," Shetty was quoted as saying in a statement.
Rajab had been arrested multiple times in recent years over protests that the government said were unauthorized.