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Bahrain jails men over YouTube discussion of Islam

Three members of a religious and cultural society in Bahrain that advocates open discussion of Islamic issues have been given jail terms.

They were prosecuted under a law that criminalises "ridicule" of any of Bahrain's recognised religious texts, which include the Quran and the Bible.

Human rights groups say the men were persecuted for expressing their right to free speech and belief.

The society said the case had fuelled violence against it members.

In a series of programmes posted on YouTube, Al-Tajdeed Society has raised questions over Islamic legal theory and opinions issued by Islamic clerics.

The group is Shia Muslim, which accounts for the majority of Bahrain's population, although the ruling family is Sunni Muslim.

But prominent Shia clerics have been the most openly hostile to the organisation, denouncing its work as blasphemy and calling for Al-Tajdeed members to be ostracised.

A lawsuit was finally submitted against the group, with the prosecution saying the case had been brought "in defence of our righteous religion" and to "prevent sedition within society". It demanded the maximum punishment under Bahraini law.

Al-Tajdeed - which means renewal in Arabic - responded by saying in court: "Thoughts are to be challenged with thoughts, and words are not to be suppressed by the authority of the law".


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