Man Detained in Bahrain for Opposing Anti-Qatar Action Online

  • Bahrain, U.A.E. threatened Qatar sympathizers with jail terms
  • Arrest is first by the Saudi-led alliance since crisis started

Authorities in Bahrain have detained a man for social media comments critical of the push to isolate Qatar, the first such arrest by the Saudi-led alliance as it seeks to suppress domestic dissent over its actions.

The man, who wasn’t identified, was taken into custody pending an investigation by the public prosecutor, Bahrain’s official news agency reported. The Interior Ministry said the man’s postings “opposed the decision of the kingdom” and its allies against Qatar.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have threatened residents who express sympathy with Qatar with fines and jail terms. In the U.A.E., violators face up to 15 years in prison and a minimum fine of 500,000 dirhams ($136,000), according to the public prosecutor, who said the decision was necessary to “protect” national security.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the U.A.E. severed diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar this month, accusing their neighbor of backing Sunni and Shiite extremist groups. Qatar denies the charges and said on Wednesday that it was under an “illegal siege.”

The crisis is the worst among Gulf Arab monarchies, oil-rich U.S. allies who control some of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds. Qatar also hosts around 10,000 U.S. troops, as well as the forward headquarters of the military’s Central Command that’s conducting air campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet.

The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein criticized the U.A.E. and Bahrain for threatening to punish Qatar’s supporters.

“This would appear to be a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression or opinion,” he said in a statement issued before the Bahraini announcement.

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