Six citizens of Bahrain have been sentenced to a year in prison for using Twitter to insult King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, a court ruled Wednesday.
The six, who were not identified, were accused of "undermining the values and traditions of Bahrain's society towards the king on Twitter.”
They appeared in lower criminal court on charges of “misusing the right of free expression,” said a government statement posted online Wednesday.
“Free expression is a right adopted by law … but must be practiced objectively away from insults and undermining values,” the statement said.
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A Shiite-led uprising began in Bahrain two years ago against the ruling Sunni monarchy. Since then activists have used Twitter to report what they refer to as regime “violations” against the Bahrainian people.
A prominent human rights activist activist, Nabeel Rajab, was sentenced to three years in prison for insulting Sunni majority members on Twitter. A member of the Middle East Division of the Human Rights Watch, Rajab was also accused of insulting security forces.
Liberal blogger Ali Abdulemam was sentenced to 15 years in absentia for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Bahranian governement. The pro-democracy activist was able to escape the island nation and later surfaced in London.
Since protests began in February 2011, 80 people have died, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.
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Situated in the Persian Gulf the island is a center for offshore financial services within the oil-rich middle east.