Jailed Bahrain activist fails to win early release

Updated at: 12/02/2013 2:35 PM
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(AP) MANAMA, Bahrain - A Bahrain court has rejected a request for the early release of jailed human rights activist human Nabeel Rajab, lawyers representing him said.

Rajab received a three-year prison sentence in August 2012 on charges of encouraging "illegal gatherings" tied to anti-government unrest in the country, though a court later reduced the term by a year.

Lawyer Jalila al-Sayed said a judge rejected her request Sunday to approve a conditional early release, for which Rajab is now eligible under Bahraini law.

Rajab heads the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and is one of several high-profile prisoners from crackdowns during an uprising by the country’s majority Shiites that began in 2011.

The protesters seek a greater political voice in the Sunni-ruled nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that the State Department had seen reports that Rajab had been denied early release, and that the U.S. continues to urge the Gulf nation to take steps to promote reconciliation among its citizens, including permitting all sectors of society to peacefully voice their political views.

`We remain deeply concerned about the three-year prison sentence for leading illegal gatherings," Psaki said. "We urge the government of Bahrain to protect the universal rights of freedom of expression and assembly just as we urge all elements of Bahraini society to engage in peaceful expression of political opinion."

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Deb Riechmann contributed from Washington

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