December 1, 2014 / 2:58 PM / 4 years ago

Bahrain activist Maryam al-Khawaja jailed in absentia for assault

DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahraini human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja was jailed for a year in absentia on Monday for assaulting two policewomen, the Gulf island state’s official news agency reported.

Human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja arrives for her trial at the Bahrain Court in Manama October 1, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

Khawaja, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was detained in August when she returned from Europe, and freed on bail pending trial on charges including assault, entering Bahrain illegally and insulting King Hamad.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Sept. 5 that Bahrain’s detention of Khawaja and other political activists was arbitrary and expressed concern that her arrest was linked to her work promoting human rights.

Khawaja’s father, Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, also an activist for the rights of the Shi’ite Muslim majority in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, has been detained since 2011.

Abdulla Al-Dossary, chief prosecutor of the Muhrarraq district, said the High Criminal Court had found Khawaja guilty of assaulting and injuring two policewomen at Bahrain International Airport, the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said.

The state news agency did not say whether the other two charges had been upheld.

Khawaja said in a statement she had not returned to Bahrain to attend the trial as she did not recognize the independence of the court and the charge of assault had been trumped up. Her statement did not say where she was.

Bahrain, a base for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been in turmoil since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, when mass protests led by Shi’ites erupted in the capital, Manama.

Shi’ites complain of political and economic materialization, an accusation the government denies. Talks between the government and opposition have failed to defuse tensions.

Reporting by Farishta Saeed; Editing by William Maclean and Louise Ireland

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