Bahrain upholds 10 year jail term for journalist

DUBAI – A Bahraini appeals court on Sunday upheld a controversial 10-year-jail term against a photojournalist convicted over his presence at a 2012 attack on a police station.

Human rights watchdogs say Ahmed Humaidan was merely covering the Arab Spring-inspired pro-democracy protests that erupted among the Shiite majority in the Sunni minority-ruled Gulf kingdom in early 2011.

But the appeal judges confirmed the sentence handed down by a lower court on March 26, a judicial source told AFP.

The 25-year-old photojournalist, who was in court for the appeal ruling, was convicted of attacking the police station in the Shiite village of Sitra, outside the capital on April 8, 2012.

Humaidan was part of a group of 29 Shiites, tried together from February 12, 2013 for attacking the police station with Molotov cocktails and other improvised explosives.

Twenty-six of them, including Humaidan, were jailed for 10 years and three were jailed for three years.

Press watchdogs, including Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), have urged Bahraini authorities to release Humaidan and dismiss the charges against him.

Humaidan is a winner of the National Press Club 2014 John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award.

In June, Human Rights Watch deputy Middle East and North Africa director Joe Stork said that “throwing photographers in jail isn’t going to keep either the protests or the accounts of what happens in Bahrain out of the world’s sight

The tiny but strategic kingdom, just across the Gulf from Iran and home base for the US Fifth Fleet, remains deeply divided three years after authorities crushed the 2011 uprising with Saudi-led military backing.

Persistent protests still spark clashes with the police and dozens of Shiites have been tried over incidents linked to the uprising.

The authorities increased penalties for those convicted of violence last year, introducing the death penalty or life sentences for certain cases.

The International Federation for Human Rights says at least 89 people have been killed in Bahrain since the uprising began in February 2011.

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