Canada asks Bahrain to free protester

2012-01-27 17:49
Ottawa - Canada and Amnesty International on Thursday urged Bahrain to release a Canadian arrested during demonstrations last year in the Gulf kingdom and sentenced to five years in prison.

Naser al-Raas was among a group of Shi'ites sentenced in October to five years in prison for their involvement in protests against the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty, which rules the small Gulf state with a majority Shiite population.

According to Amnesty International Canada, the 12 other prisoners were acquitted on Tuesday by a court in Bahrain.

"But in spite of this and his health, Naser's five-year sentence was upheld by the same court," Amnesty said in a statement.

"He has a heart condition that his Canadian doctor has said is aggravated by imprisonment, bringing a real threat that he could die behind bars," the rights group added, calling his imprisonment a "horror story".

Canada's deputy foreign minister Diane Ablonczy said in a statement that the Canadian government continues "to press for his case to be resolved expeditiously, particularly in view of Mr Al-Raas' grave health concerns".

Raas, a 29-year-old Kuwaiti-born engineer from Ottawa, travelled to Bahrain in early March 2011 to visit members of his family. He was arrested at the airport as he prepared to leave the country and was imprisoned for a month in al-Qala prison, where he claims to have been beaten.

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