Bahrain man jailed for 3 years after burning Israeli flag at riot

Court refuses to hear appeal, convicting defendant of organizing illegal demonstration; locals accuse government of seeking to appease Jerusalem, amid thawing of ties

Illustrative: Moroccans burn the Israeli flag during a demonstration against the US Middle East peace plan in the capital Rabat on February 9, 2020. (Fadel Senna/AFP)
Illustrative: Moroccans burn the Israeli flag during a demonstration against the US Middle East peace plan in the capital Rabat on February 9, 2020. (Fadel Senna/AFP)

A Bahrain court sentenced a man to three years in prison for carrying out a riot during which he burned an Israeli flag, local media reported Monday.

The Supreme Court of Appeal refused to hear a petition from the Bahraini man, who was convicted of organizing an illegal gathering and rioting, among other charges.

At a pro-Palestinian demonstration last May, the defendant along with 10 other people blocked streets at the entrance to the village of Abu Saiba by setting a fire in the middle of the road and then burning an Israeli flag, Bahraini media reported.

The man was not immediately identified.

Several local news outlets noted that the sentencing sparked outrage among dozens of Bahrainis on social media, who accused their government of seeking to appease Israel amid Manama’s thawing of ties with Jerusalem.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (R) pose for a photograph at the State Department in Washington on July 17, 2019. (Courtesy)

Though Israel has diplomatic ties with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, there has been an opening with Bahrain and other Gulf states in recent years amid their shared antipathy toward Iran.

Last December, Jerusalem Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar made a rare visit to Bahrain, where he met the Arab kingdom’s king, as well as religious leaders from around the Middle East as well as other countries around the world.

In October 2019, Foreign Ministry official Dana Benvenisti-Gabay attended a security conference in Bahrain in a rare formal visit.

In June of that year, Bahrain hosted an American-led conference where US President Donald Trump’s peace team rolled out the economic aspects of its long-awaited proposal to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While no Israeli officials were there, a number of the country’s businessmen and journalists were invited to attend the workshop.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa told The Times of Israel at the conference that “Israel is a country in the region… and it’s there to stay, of course.”

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