Free Ayat now, Amnesty tells Bahrain regime

Amnesty International last night called on Bahrain to free Ayat al-Gormezi, the 20-year-old student who has become a symbol for those who have taken to the streets of the Gulf state to demand greater political freedoms.

Jailed for a year this week for protesting, Ms Gormezi was convicted after reciting poetry critical of Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and the Bahraini regime. She was arrested on 30 March when security forces raided her parents' home and forced four of her brothers to the floor at gunpoint. As previously reported in The Independent, Ms Gormezi was whipped across the face with an electrical cable and held in a tiny cell.

Amnesty's Bethan Cansfield, said: "Ayat's imprisonment is an utter disgrace. The Bahraini authorities ought to release her immediately and investigate disturbing reports that she was horribly mistreated while in detention."

The Bahraini government has said it had appointed lawyers in the UK to file a case against The Independent for what it described as the newspaper's "unrealistic and provocative" articles on the protests.

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