A prominent Bahraini human rights activist was found guilty yesterday of instigating and participating in several illegal gatherings and sentenced to three years in jail.
The unexpectedly stiff sentence for Nabeel Rajab will raise questions about the Western-backed Sunni monarchy's commitment to reform. It will also embolden anti-government protesters who have been demonstrating over the past 18 months for greater rights in the Gulf island kingdom.
Mr Rajab, who is president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, is already serving a three-month sentence for posting anti-government comments on Twitter. He was in court for the verdict.
Mr Rajab's attorney, Mohammed al-Jishi, said his client was sentenced to one year's jail for each of three cases against him. Mr Jishi said he plans to appeal against the ruling.
In a separate case involving comments made on Twitter, a judge delayed issuing a verdict on Mr Rajab's appeal until 23 August.
Protests have taken place nearly every day in Bahrain since the kingdom's Shia majority rose up in February 2011 seeking greater political rights from its Sunni rulers. At least 50 people have died in the unrest and hundreds have been arrested, including prominent rights activists and Shia opposition leaders.