Bahraini authorities have ordered pro-democracy activist Zainab al-Khawaja to be detained for questioning for seven days after a judge accused her of insulting King Hamad by tearing up his picture, her lawyer said on Wednesday.
Zainab, who is pregnant and lives in Bahrain, fell foul of the judge on Tuesday during an appeal hearing into two cases involving her that date back to 2012, her lawyer Mohammed al-Wasti said. Earlier this year, the king approved a law imposing a jail sentence of up to seven years and a fine of up to 10,000 dinars [$26,500] for anyone who publicly insulted him.
“The judge yesterday accused Zainab of insulting the king by tearing up his picture during the trial,” Wasti said.
Washington is a long-standing ally of the ruling al-Khalifa dynasty, and Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
In February, Zainab was released after nearly a year in prison for multiple convictions, including taking part in pro-democracy protests.
Zainab was a prominent activist during the 2011 protests, where she became known for publishing news of the uprising on social media especially after she called for international attention to focus on an estimated 3,000 prisoners believed to be behind bars in Bahrain on politically related charges.
Her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, is a prominent activist and former president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. He is among several opposition figures who are currently serving life sentences. He drew attention to his imprisonment with a lengthy hunger strike in 2012. Bahrain continues to detain of over 2,000 Bahrainis who dared to challenge the Khalifa monarchy when the uprising erupted.
Today, Bahrain has the distinction of being the country with the second highest prison population rate per 100,000 amongst Arab states in the West Asian and North African region. There are over 200 minors held within these prisons, forced to stay side-by-side with adults, and others have faced torture and abuses.