Bahrain sentences Shiite activist to 3 years for insulting king weeks after she gave birth

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A Bahraini court on Thursday sentenced a prominent opposition activist to three years in prison for insulting the king after she tore up the monarch's photo, her lawyer said. The activist, Zainab al-Khawaja, gave birth only a few weeks earlier.

Al-Khawaja was also fined the equivalent of around $8,000, lawyer Mohammed al-Wasti told The Associated Press.

Al-Khawaja is part of the Gulf island monarchy's most prominent opposition family. Her father Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is serving a life sentence for his role in 2011 protests by Shiites demanding greater rights from the Sunni-led government. Her sister Maryam was sentenced this week in absentia to a year in prison on charges of assaulting police. Maryam is currently in exile in Denmark.

Zainab al-Khawaja was detained in October after she tore up a photo of King Hamad while in court facing charges for two previous incidents of tearing up the king's photo. She was eight months pregnant at the time of her detention, but was released from custody in November and gave birth to a boy named Abdulhadi.

Also Thursday, a senior U.S. diplomat returned to Bahrain after being ordered to leave in July. Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, was abruptly asked to leave Bahrain after he met representatives of al-Wifaq, the country's most prominent Shiite opposition group. The Bahraini Foreign Ministry at the time labeled the meeting an intervention in the country's domestic affairs.

"As everyone knows, my last visit did not end in a way that served anyone well. I'm very happy that we are now looking and moving forward," Malinowski said Thursday. "I have many friends here and I truly believe that the country has the capacity to overcome its recent difficulties and to succeed."

Malinowski was accompanied by Anne Patterson, assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs. The two diplomats met with senior members of the Bahraini government, including the king and crown prince, as well as representatives from al-Wifaq and other members of the Bahraini opposition.