Bahraini authorities have detained a citizen for sympathising with Qatar on social media, the attorney general said on Wednesday, after authorities warned that sympathising with Doha was tantamount to a criminal offence. The department of cyber crime referred a case to the public prosecutor’s office in which “a person of interest had posted comments to social networks that constitute a violation” of a ban against sympathising with boycott-hit Qatar, said attorney general Ahmed al-Hammadi, head of Bahrain’s Terrorist Crimes Commission.
“The prosecution has begun investigating the matter, and the suspect has been interrogated and is being held in custody,” Hammadi said. Bahrain’s strict cyber crime law prohibits the expression of dissent online, including via social media. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt last week cut diplomatic ties with Qatar over accusations that the emirate was a champion of extremist groups in the region as well as over its ties to Shiite Iran. Qatar firmly denies the allegations.
Manama, which has had territorial disputes in the past with Doha, has announced it would jail Qatar sympathisers, following a similar decision by the UAE. “Any expression of sympathy with the government of Qatar or opposition to the measures taken by the government of Bahrain, whether through social media, Twitter or any other form of communication, is a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine,” the interior ministry said last week.
Sunni-ruled Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been rocked by unrest since security forces crushed Shiite-led protests in 2011 demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister. Authorities accuse Iran of backing the protesters and aiming to incite unrest in Shiite-majority Bahrain, a charge Tehran denies.