Last updated: 4 February, 2014

Bahrain toughens jail time for “offending” king

Bahrain announced Tuesday tougher jail sentences for offending King Hamad, as the country prepares to mark the third anniversary of a Shiite-led uprising against the kingdom’s Sunni rulers.

Separately, a court jailed 24 Shiites for violence and taking part in unlicenced protests.

An amendment to the 1976 penal code says that “publicly offending the king of Bahrain, its national flag or emblem” will carry a minimum one-year and a maximum seven-year sentence, as well as a fine of up to $26,000 (19,260 euros), state news agency BNA reported.

The sentence can exceed seven years if the “offence was committed in the presence of the king,” the report added, without providing details.

Previously, the same charges carried a minimum sentence of only a few days.

In 2012, a criminal court jailed two activists for one and four months, respectively, after their conviction for posting on Twitter remarks deemed insulting to the king.

Meanwhile Tuesday, the Manama criminal court sentenced 23 Shiites to five years in jail for attacks with petrol bombs and taking part in an unlicenced protest.

Another Shiite was jailed for three years.

Arab Spring-inspired protests in mid-February 2011 were met by a crackdown a month later, backed by Saudi-led Gulf forces that rolled into Bahrain in support of the al-Khalifa dynasty.

Demonstrators, that sometimes chant “Down with Hamad,” frequently clash with security forces in Shiite villages outside the capital.

At least 89 people have been killed in since the protests began, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.