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US 'deeply troubled' by Bahrain activist jailing

“We believe that all people have a fundamental freedom to participate in civil acts of peaceful disobedience,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Image: Hasan Jamali/AP/Press Association Images

THE UNITED STATES said it is “deeply troubled” by a Bahraini court’s three-year prison sentence handed down to a prominent activist from the US ally’s Shiite majority.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the US embassy contacted Bahraini authorities to voice concern over the jail term given to Nabeel Rajab for “unauthorised” protests against the Sunni monarchy.

“We are deeply troubled by the sentencing,” Nuland told reporters.

“We believe that all people have a fundamental freedom to participate in civil acts of peaceful disobedience,” she said.

“We call on the government of Bahrain to take steps to build confidence across Bahraini society and to begin a really meaningful dialogue with the political opposition and civil society because actions like this sentencing today only serve to further divide Bahraini society,” she said.

Rajab has been in custody since June 6 on charges of insulting members of the Sunni community on Twitter, days after he was released on bail after a month behind bars over other charges.

Unlike Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition, the rights activist has insisted on holding protests in the capital Manama even after the regime in March 2011 crushed demonstrations by Shiites who allege discrimination by the regime.

Despite its criticism, the United States has maintained relations with Bahrain and sold it weapons. Bahrain is a major US military hub just across from Iran, with which the island’s Sunni leaders have tense relations.

Russia has accused the United States of hypocrisy for supporting Bahrain while criticizing Moscow’s ties to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, although the United States says it does not sell Bahrain weapons that can be used against crowds.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: Bahrain activist jailed for three years>

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