Bahrain jailed one of its citizens for comments made on social media, reports said, in the first arrest of its kind since passing a controversial law criminalizing sympathy with Qatar.
Last week, Bahrain authorities followed suit with the United Arab Emirates by announcing it would jail Qatar sympathizers.
“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.
On Wednesday, Bahrain’s attorney general said a case was referred to the public prosecutor’s office in which “a person of interest had posted comments to social networks that constitute a violation” against sympathising with Qatar.
“The prosecution has begun investigating the matter, and the suspect has been interrogated and is being held in custody,” Ahmed al-Hammadi said.
Bahrain’s strict cyber-crime law prohibits the expression of dissent online, including via social media.
Last week, the UAE warned social media users that they can face three to 15 years in prison and fines starting from 500,000 dirhams ($136,000) for offering sympathy for Qatar amid a growing diplomatic crisis in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt on June 5 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 Iran.
Bahrain demanded Qatar cut ties with Iran, with Manama accusing the Islamic Republic of orchestrating Shia-led protests in the kingdom.
Qatar firmly denies the allegations.
Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, while Qatar is the base for the largest American military airfield in the Middle East.