Bahrain jails female opposition figure with child

A protester in the village of Diraz in Bahrain holds a banner during a march in support of a jailed opposition leader on Friday last week (March 11, 2016).
A protester in the village of Diraz in Bahrain holds a banner during a march in support of a jailed opposition leader on Friday last week (March 11, 2016).PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI (AFP) - Bahraini police on Monday jailed opposition figure Zainab al-Khawaja who was convicted in 2014 for tearing up a poster of King Hamad, media and activists said.

Khawaja, a Shiite, and her toddler were taken into custody from the family home, Al-Wasat daily cited her husband as saying.

The daughter of prominent rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was sentenced to three years in prison in December 2014 after being convicted of insulting the king by ripping up a photograph of him.

An appeals court last October reduced her term to one year behind bars, while upholding a fine of 3,000 dinars (about S$8,000).

Khawaja had said she would keep her son, who is reportedly just over one year old, by her side if she was jailed, Amnesty International said in October.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights said Khawaja had been sentenced to a total of three years and one month in prison, on charges including for ripping the monarch's picture and for insulting a police officer.

The timing of her arrest was likely linked to the work of her sister and GCHR co-director, Maryam al-Khawaja, who lives in Europe and is vocal in criticising Bahraini authorities, the group said.

"This is a terrible development," Brian Dooley of the Washington-based Human Rights First said in a statement. "Taking her back into custody only deepens Bahrain's political crisis."

Tiny but strategic Bahrain, home base of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, remains deeply divided after authorities crushed a month-old, Shiite-led uprising that called for reforms in March 2011.