Bahrain activist Nabeel Rajab freed as trial adjourned

DUBAI, UAE- A Bahraini court Sunday freed prominent Shiite activist Nabeel Rajab but barred him from travel until his trial resumes over remarks on Twitter deemed insulting to public institutions, a judicial source said.
The criminal court in Manama ordered Rajab's release from custody and adjourned the trial until January 20, the source told AFP.

A picture on his Twitter account later showed Rajab in a car, smiling and flashing a "V" for victory sign, as his family said he arrived home.
Rajab, a member of Bahrain's Shiite majority which has held protests against the Gulf kingdom's Sunni rulers since 2011, was arrested on October 1 after posting comments on Twitter about the interior and defence ministries.
In one of the tweets which were deemed offensive, Rajab charged that many of the Bahrainis fighting with jihadists in Syria were former security forces personnel who had developed Sunni extremist views while in service.
Rajab's lawyer, Jalila al-Sayyed, used Sunday's hearing to call for her client to be freed, according to the judicial source.
The trial has been condemned by advocacy groups, including Human Rights Watch, which also called for the charges against Rajab to be dropped.
Amnesty International said Sunday that "while we welcome that Nabeel Rajab has been released on bail, he should never have been detained in the first place."
"The Bahraini authorities are merely obfuscating, meanwhile a man’s future hangs in the balance," said Amnesty's MENA deputy director, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
Rajab is the director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and was freed in May after serving two years in jail for taking part in unauthorised protests.
He had led anti-government marches following a bloody crackdown on Shiite-led demonstrations against the Al-Khalifa ruling family in March 2011.
Bahrain human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja also faces trial for assaulting police officers, although she has been bailed following appeals by civil society groups from around the world.
Khawaja, who holds a Danish passport, left Bahrain on October 2, one day after a Manama court lifted a travel ban against her.
Her trial continues, however, and the next hearing will take place on Wednesday.
She has been a vocal critic of a crackdown on the 2011 protests that led to her opposition leader father Abdulhadi al-Khawaja being jailed for life.
"Prosecuting anyone merely for peacefully expressing their political views is a clear form of repression and a brazen violation of their rights," Amnesty said.
Tiny but strategic Bahrain, home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, remains deeply divided three years after the protests were crushed.
It continues to witness sporadic protests which often spiral into clashes with police.
Bahrain on November 22 will hold its first parliamentary elections since the uprising.
The polls have been boycotted by several opposition groups, including the main Shiite bloc Al-Wefaq, which was banned by a court decision last week from carrying out any activities for three months.

Sunday, November 2nd 2014

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