05/16/2013, 00.00
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Twitter, the social medium the emirs do not like

As government persecution continues, six more people are arrested in Bahrain for offensive twitting against the country's customs and institutions. Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, the religious police warns locals that anyone using social media "has lost this world and his afterlife."

Manama (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A Bahrain court sentenced six activists to a year in jail for insulting King Hamad bin Isa al-Halaifa in messages posted on Twitter. For the public prosecutor, they were guilty of "misuse of freedom of expression".

On the same day the six activists were convicted, Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, head of the Saudi religious police, strongly criticised the use of twitter by Saudis, saying that "anyone using social media sites," especially Twitter, "has lost this world and his afterlife", reflecting official concern that Saudis use Twitter to discuss sensitive political and other issues.

Saudi Arabia is believed to have seen the world's fastest increase in the uptake of Twitter.

Protests in Bahrain began in February of 2011, leading to the arrest of 3,000 activists and the death of 80 protesters, 35 of them only between March and April.

Bahrain's ruling family has run the small country for more than 200 years. When challenged, it called on the Saudi government to help them crush demonstrations. Riyadh responded by sending about a thousand troops.

On 9 July 2012, Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Centre for human rights and an iconic figure in the protest movement, was also sentenced to two years in prison on misusing freedom of expression as well.

Friends now run his Twitter account, which has become the online window for Bahraini dissidents with over 200,000 followers.

On the same day that the six activists were convicted, Nabeel's family went public with strong concerns over the conditions of his imprisonment.


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