Six Twitter users were sentenced to a year in prison each by a Bahrain court on May 15 for allegedly insulting King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on the micro-blogging site.
According to the government-run Bahrain News Agency, the “six suspects” where charged in five different cases “related to the misuse of freedom of expression and defaming His Majesty the King on Twitter.” It added that the six were “charged [with] misusing freedoms of expression and opinion publicly and remanded…in custody ahead of their trial.”
According to the London-based Bahrain Press Association those sentenced are [ar]:
@BahrainPA: Those sentenced to prison with the charges of insulting the king on Twitter are: lawyer Mahdi Al Basri, Mahmood Taresh, Mohsin Abdali, Hassan Abdali, Hassan Abdali and Ammar Makki.
The name Hassan Abdali appears twice and Global Voices Online cannot verify whether it is two separate people or a mistake. A query by Global Voices remained unanswered at the time of writing this post.
The association added:
@BahrainPA: BPA: [we] consider these sentenc[es] unfair provisions that violate the freedom of Expression
Meanwhile, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said that five Twitter users have been sentenced to a year in prison – and called for their immediate release:
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) demands:
- the immediate release of those who were arrested due to freedom of opinion and expression and to drop all charges against them;
- put an end to the restrictions against social media in Bahrain;
- protect the free exchange of information on the Internet and not restrict it.
The sentencing sparked criticism online.
Bahraini Freedom Prayers sees the sentences as a threat to silence other dissidents:
@FreedomPrayers: Last year twitter users sentenced to 6months. This year the offering reached 1yr. If the rest didn't shut up, next it will be 5yrs. #Bahrain
From Cambridge, UK, author Toby Matthiesen tweets:
@TobyMatthiesen: Bahrain court jails 6 tweeters for a year for “insulting” the King. Another sign of GCC trying to limit Twitter impact
And researcher Marc Owen Jones challenges:
@marcowenjones: They couldn't arrest everyone if they all insulted the King on Twitter. Or could they…? #Bahrain