NEW YORK — A court in Bahrain sentenced a prominent democracy advocate Wednesday to five years in prison for tweets about abuses in prisons and the Saudi-led war in Yemen, continuing the crackdown that crushed the Arab Spring uprising there seven years ago.

The sentencing of the advocate, Nabeel Rajab, is the latest step in Bahrain, a tiny island kingdom that is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Backed by rulers in neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim royal family has used tanks, sweeping arrests, and tight censorship to thwart demands for democracy among the Sh’iite Muslim majority, and the resulting conflict has inflamed sectarian tensions around the region. The repression has presented Washington with one of the most awkward conflicts between its professions of support for human rights and its military commitments in the Persian Gulf.


Rajab, 53, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, is a leader of the pro-democracy movement that came to life in 2011. He was sentenced to three years in jail the next year, on charges of inciting protests against the government, and he has spent much of the intervening time in and out of prison on charges related to his criticism of the monarchy. He is already serving a two-year sentence handed down in
July for comments he made in television interviews.

Rajab was sentenced Wednesday for statements he posted on Twitter in 2015.

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