US lawmakers call on Bahrain king to free activist

Associated Press
Bahraini children play in an alley spray-painted with anti-government graffiti in Malkiya, Bahrain, on Monday, Aug. 6, 2012. At left above the words "Martyrs Square,"  is a painted image of the since-demolished monument that stood at the site of huge Spring 2011 pro-democracy protests. Back wall graffiti includes "down Hamad," referring to Bahrain's king. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
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Bahraini children play in an alley spray-painted with anti-government graffiti in Malkiya, Bahrain, on Monday, Aug. 6, 2012. At left above the words "Martyrs Square," is a painted image of the since-demolished monument that stood at the site of huge Spring 2011 pro-democracy protests. Back wall graffiti includes "down Hamad," referring to Bahrain's king. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Nineteen members of the U.S. Congress have written to Bahrain's king to call for the release of prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who is currently serving a three-month jail sentence for making anti-government statements on Twitter.

Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center For Human Rights, is due in court Sunday in a separate case that relates to him allegedly calling for and participating in an illegal gathering.

The letter sent Friday to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa acknowledges the country has introduced reforms since last year's anti-government protests. But it also said Rajab's prosecution runs "counter to the government's assurances that individuals will not be prosecuted for peaceful political speech."

Several other prominent rights groups including U.S.-based Human Rights First have also called for his release.

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