February 16, 2014
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahraini activist Zainab al-Khawaja was released from prison on Sunday after nearly a year behind bars for multiple convictions including participation in an illegal gathering.
Friends and supporters greeted her in a coffee shop in a main mall hours after her release. The cafe has served as a gathering point for activists since the small island-nation’s Arab Spring-inspired uprising.
“One year of prison is nothing,” she told journalists defiantly after her release. “We have a cause… This will not stop us.” Bahrain’s majority Shiites have led a three-year uprising seeking a greater political voice in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom, which is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.
Al-Khawaja, who is popular online and on Twitter, said international attention should focus on an estimated 3,000 prisoners believed to be behind bars in Bahrain on politically related charges. Her father is prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is among several opposition figures who are serving life sentences. He drew attention to his imprisonment with a lengthy hunger strike in 2012.
Her lawyer Mohammed al-Attiyah said she still faces two trials, one this month and one next month, on charges that include damaging police property, defacing a picture of Bahrain’s king and insulting a police officer.