Bahraini authorities on Wednesday questioned a prominent rights activist over comments on his Twitter account that “denigrated” government institutions, the interior ministry said.
Nabeel Rajab, one of the most prominent rights activists in the Arab world and founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was freed in May after he completed two years in jail on charges of organising and participating in illegal protests to push for reforms in the Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdom.
The Ministry said Rajab was summoned for questioning by the General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security on Wednesday “regarding tweets posted on his Twitter account that denigrated government institutions”.
“Mr. Rajab acknowledged the charges and the case was referred to the Public Prosecutor,” the ministry said in a statement on its Twitter account.
Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based, has been in turmoil since protests led by Shi’ite Muslims erupted in 2011 after similar uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
Talks between the government and opposition have failed to end the political standoff. Many Shi’ites complain of political and economic discrimination, a charge the authorities deny.
Rajab, who had returned to Bahrain from a tour mostly in Europe following his release in May, had earlier reported being summoned for questioning over his tweets.
A friend who was running the account in Rajab’s absence later said without elaborating that the activist had been detained and would face the public prosecution on Thursday.
There was no immediate confirmation from the authorities that Rajab had been arrested.
Speaking after his release in May, Rajab said he had been shocked at how the situation in Bahrain had worsened during his time in prison and called for a “genuine dialogue” between the ruling authorities and the opposition to reach a solution for the deadlock in the U.S.-allied country.
Authorities had been targeting activists and human rights advocates, he said.
Rajab rose to prominence after campaigning against a crackdown on demonstrations. Protesters cast him as a hero but some other Bahrainis see him as a threat, fearing that protesters want to bring Shi’ite Islamists to power in the Gulf Arab state.
Rajab was sentenced to three months in jail last year in a separate case over a tweet criticising the prime minister, the king’s uncle. The ruling was overturned, but only after Rajab had already served his sentence.