protest

Zainab al-Khawaja (front L) and fellow human rights activists take part in a rally held in support of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja in the village of Bani-Jamra, west of Manama March 11, 2012.

Credit:

Hamad I Mohammed/ Reuters

This week an appeals court in Bahrain upheld the decision to imprison an activitst for ripping up a picture of the king. 

Zainab Al-Khawaja is a prominent human rights activist in Bahrain who has a popular social media following and has worked to publicize human rights violations in her country. In 2012 she tore a photo of Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa in half, and was charged with insulting the king. At the hearing in 2014 Al-Khawaja ripped up another photo of the monarch and was sentenced to three years in prison. 

Earlier this week the Bahrain appeals court upheld the conviction but reduced the sentence to one year. According to Al-Khawaja's sister however, the activist was also hit with a $8,000 fine, which will turn into a year and a half of prison time if she cannot pay. 

"The Bahraini Court of Appeals’ decision to reject Zainab Al-Khawaja’s appeal for freedom and to incarcerate her for one year is a vindictive assault on freedom of expression and offers yet another example of the Bahraini authorities’ use of oppressive tactics to silence peaceful activists,” stated James Lynch, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. "The Bahraini authorities must ensure her conviction and prison sentence are quashed. She should not be punished in any way for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.”

Despite a year spent in prison, Al-Khawaja has stood by her actions as a form of peaceful expression.

Al-Khawaja is a mother of two young children, and her sister she intends to bring her 11-month son with her if she is imprisoned again.

Her father is also a prominent activist, and is serving a life in prison his part in pro-democracy protests in 2011.

And Al-Khawaja may see prison again. The activist is currently out on bail as she appeals three other convictions — a two-month sentence for “destroying public property” by ripping up photos of the king in 2012, a one-year sentence for “insulting a public officer” by arguing with a prison guard, and a nine-month sentence for "entering a restricted area" and "insulting a public official" when she tried to forcefully visit her father in prison as he conducted a hunger strike in 2011. 

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