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Bahrain Toughens Imprisonment, Fines for Anyone "Insulting" Monarch
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain should rescind a new law imposing prison sentences of up to seven years for anyone convicted of publicly insulting the king or national emblems, a measure that violates fundamental rights of freedom of speech, Freedom House said.
Press accounts said the state-controlled news agency disclosed the law February 4, a measure that went beyond existing law measures by providing for the prison sentence as well as fine of up to the equivalent of $26,500. It also applies to “whoever has insulted, in any kind of public manner, the king of Bahrain, or its national flag or its national emblem.”
The measure clearly targets protesters whose calls for greater political freedom began in February 2011. The Bahraini government has increasingly used national security arguments and the threat of terrorism to enact legislation curbing basic freedoms, such as freedom of assembly and free expression online. Continuing human rights abuses have worsened tension between the Sunni-dominated government and the majority Shiite population, which is largely unrepresented in state institutions like the police and military, and has accounted for the bulk of protesters.
Bahrain is a U.S. ally and home port for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, hosting some 5,000 U.S. military personnel.
Freedom House calls on Bahraini authorities to guarantee all citizens their rights to freedom of speech and assembly.
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