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Woman sentenced to prison in Bahrain after reciting poetry criticising rulers

Twenty-year-old Ayat al-Qurmezi was convicted of inciting hatred and anti-state charges after reading poems which were critical of Bahrain’s king and prime minister.

Bahraini Shiite Muslims chant slogans for the release of prisoners on Friday in Diraz.
Bahraini Shiite Muslims chant slogans for the release of prisoners on Friday in Diraz.
Image: AP Photo/Hasan Jamali

A 20-YEAR-OLD woman who recited poems criticising Bahrain’s rulers has been sentenced to a year in prison by a special security court set up during the kingdom’s crackdown on Shiite protesters calling for greater rights.

The tribunal’s decision sent a message that the Sunni monarchy is not easing off on punishments linked to the unrest despite appeals for talks with Shiite groups in the strategic Gulf island kingdom, which is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Shiites account for about 70 per cent of Bahrain’s population but claim they face widespread discrimination such as being blocked from holding top military or government posts. Shiite leaders have called on authorities to end security crackdowns and trials before considering talks with the Sunni ruling family.

The official Bahrain News Agency said Ayat al-Qurmezi was convicted of anti-state charges, including inciting hatred. She can appeal.

Al-Qurmezi read the poems criticising Bahrain’s king and prime minister after demonstrations inspired by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt broke out in February.

Two former parliament members, Jawad Fairooz and Mattar Mattar, also went on trial as part of wide-ranging arrests and trials of perceived enemies of the ruling system. Both are members of the main Shiite political group, Wefaq, whose 18 lawmakers resigned to protest the harsh measures against protesters.

At least 31 people have been killed in the unrest in Bahrain.

The US has condemned the violence, but has stopped short of any tangible punishments against the rulers in one of Washington’s military hubs in the Gulf.

- AP

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