Bahrain: Three-year sentence for ripping up photo of the King

A court in Manama has today handed down a three-year prison sentence and a 3,000 Bahraini Dinar (approx. US$8,000) fine to prominent activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, for allegedly “insulting the king” when she tore up a photograph of him in a court in October. 

She and her family have been continually targeted by the Bahraini authorities. Her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a leading human rights activist and prisoner of conscience, is currently serving a life sentence. Just three days ago, her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja, who is living in exile, was sentenced in absentia to one year in prison. 

“Tearing up a photo of the head of state should not be a criminal offence. Amnesty International is calling for this and all of Zainab Al-Khawaja’s other convictions to be quashed and all outstanding charges to be dropped,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. 

“If she is imprisoned on the basis of this conviction, Amnesty International 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.”

Zainab Al-Khawaja was not present in court when the verdict was announced as she is still recovering after giving birth last week. She is due back in court in the coming week to appeal convictions in three separate cases for offences since 2012, for tearing another photo of the monarch and for allegedly insulting a police officer while in prison in June 2013 when she verbally defended another prisoner who was being insulted and humiliated in prison.