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Bahraini king pardons prominent activist on health grounds

FILE - In this Friday, March 21, 2014 file photo, a Bahraini pro-democracy protester wears a mask with an image of jailed Bahraini human rights activist Nabil Rajab as others wave national flags during a march in Abu Saiba, west of the capital, Manama, Bahrain. The country's official news agency reported Monday, July 13, 2015, that King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has pardoned Rajab, an outspoken human rights activist on health grounds after three months in prison. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain’s king on Monday pardoned an outspoken Bahraini human rights activist after three months in prison, citing health reasons, reported the official Bahrain News Agency.

Nabeel Rajab, who is president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, had been under arrest since April 2 on charges related to comments he made online criticizing the treatment of political prisoners at a prison in the Arab Gulf country.

He also faced a six-month sentence for insulting defense and interior ministries on Twitter when he alleged that Bahrain’s security institutions were incubators for extremist ideology after several former of the country’s security officials apparently joined the extremist Islamic State group.

BNA reported the pardon by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and said Rajab was released on Monday. Rajab, who is a member of Bahrain’s Shiite majority, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bahrain is an important Western ally in the Gulf, and hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

The tiny island nation has faced four years of unrest led by its majority Shiites calling for greater political rights from the Sunni leadership. With help from security forces from neighboring Gulf states, Bahrain put down widespread protests in 2011. But occasional demonstrations still occur, and anti-government activists frequently clash with riot police.

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