Bahrain rights activist released from prison

nabeel-rajab1Prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab has been freed after serving two years in prison for his involvement in illegal protests, the BBC reports:

Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), was convicted in 2012 of taking part in illegal gatherings and disturbing public order.

An appeals court later reduced his original three-year term by a year. He was one of several leading activists arrested by the authorities after pro-democracy protests erupted in 2011.

The activist is a key icon for the protest movement against the Gulf Arab monarchy’s Sunni rulers. Since 2011, the country’s majority Shiites have been protesting, demanding greater rights and political freedoms, AP reports:

Rajab told The Associated Press that he is happy to be out after more than 600 days in prison, and called for the release of all political prisoners. He said stability can only be achieved “through respect for human rights.”

“After two years in prison, I see Bahrain’s political environment as more difficult and still without a roadmap for real reforms,” he said.

In mid-2012, Rajab was also sentenced to three months for his comments on Twitter about Bahrain’s prime minister. His conviction was overturned on appeal during his prison sentence for taking part in protests.

Also on Saturday, thousands of people marched in a funeral for 15-year old Sayed Mohsen, who died during protests earlier this week in Sitra, south of the capital, Manama. The procession turned violent when mourners clashed with security forces nearby. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Mohsen’s family and the country’s main opposition group Al Wifaq said the teenager died after being shot in the chest at close range with bird shot — a weapon commonly used by Bahraini police.

“While the specific circumstances in which Sayed Mohsen was shot remain unclear, the use of force in policing public assemblies … must conform to the requirements of necessity and proportionality; and firearms may only be used as a last resort,” Amnesty International said in a statement.