ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Bahraini rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja has been sentenced to three months in jail for insulting a public employee after an appeal court overturned her earlier acquittal, Bahrain’s state news agency said on Friday.
The kingdom, base for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been in political turmoil since protests erupted there in 2011, led by majority Shi‘ite Muslims demanding an end to the Sunni monarchy’s political domination and full powers for parliament.
Khawaja is the daughter of prominent Shi‘ite Muslim human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja who was a leading figure in the 2011 uprising and who is now serving a life sentence.
“The Court of Appeal has today overturned an initial verdict acquitting Zainab al-Khawaja and sentenced her to three months in jail,” BNA said, citing Amina Isa, a chief prosecutor.
Bahrain’s public prosecutor had charged Khawaja with “insulting a public employee while on duty”, BNA said.
The appeals court has previously sentenced Khawaja to one one-month and one two-month jail term in two other cases for entering a prohibited military zone and damaging state-owned property, the state news agency said.
The government says 35 people died during the unrest in 2011 and two months of martial law that followed, although the opposition puts the toll at more than 80.
This month violence has surged as protesters marked the second anniversary of the uprising on February 14. One protester and a policeman died in clashes between crowds and security forces.
According to the opposition, a second protester died last week. The government said at the time it was investigating and that there was no evidence police were involved.
The violence has clouded the atmosphere around talks begun on February 10 between the mostly Shi‘ite opposition and the Sunni Muslim-dominated government to find a way out of the impasse over Shi‘ite demands for more democracy.
Reporting by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Alistair Lyon