Bahrain postpones prominent rights activist's verdict

High-profile Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab, who has been sentenced to a further five years in jail over tweets critical of the war in Yemen, is seen here in 2015 with his daughter Malak (AFP Photo/MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH) (AFP/File)

Dubai (AFP) - A Bahraini court Thursday postponed until October 31 its verdict in the trial of prominent activist Nabeel Rajab, charged with spreading false information and posting online insults, a judicial source said.

The criminal court, with Rajab present behind bars, was scheduled to give its verdict at Thursday's hearing.

The Shiite human rights activist, who had been pardoned for health reasons last year, was re-arrested in June and is on trial on a list of charges, including insulting a state institution and Saudi Arabia in online postings.

He is also accused of "spreading false news and rumours and inciting propaganda during wartime which could undermine the war operations by the Bahraini armed forces and weaken the nation", state news agency BNA reported Thursday.

Bahrain is part of a Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen.

The court had repeatedly ordered that Rajab, 51, remain in custody throughout the trial, despite recurring health problems for which he was briefly hospitalised in late June.

His detention has drawn wide condemnation from human rights groups.

Last month, 22 NGOs including Human rights Watch and Amnesty International wrote a letter urging 50 governments to "speak out on Bahrain's continued misuse of the judicial system to harass and silence human rights defenders", and specifically called for Rajab's release.

Amnesty says that if convicted, the activist could face up to 13 years in prison.

Rajab has been repeatedly detained for organising protests and publishing tweets deemed insulting to Bahrain's Sunni authorities.

He previously served two years in jail on charges of taking part in unauthorised protests in the Shiite-majority kingdom.

Home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, Bahrain has been rocked by unrest since security forces crushed Shiite-led protests in 2011 demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.