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Leading Bahraini activist's detention extended

Nabeel Rajab has been accused by the prosecution service of 'spreading tendentious rumours' about Bahrain
Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab stands for a picture with his wife Sumaya and children Malak and Adem as they leave a court building (AFP)

Bahrain on Sunday extended by two weeks the period of detention for prominent rights activist Nabeel Rajab, accused of spreading false news, for the second time this month.

Rajab's family say he was arrested on April 2 for posting comments on Twitter denouncing alleged torture in a prison where Shiite activists are held.

The prosecution "ordered that he remain detained for 15 days" pending the results of further investigation, the official BNA news agency reported.

Shiite-majority but Sunni-ruled Bahrain first extended Rajab's period of detention by 15 days on April 11.

A prosecution service statement said the Shiite activist was accused of "spreading tendentious rumours" about the Gulf state's participation in the Saudi-led Arab coalition waging an air offensive against Houthi rebels in Yemen, and "attacking a state institution".

It accused him of posting online "edited footage from television broadcasts on events in Syria and Palestine, unrelated to military operations in Yemen", said the statement published by BNA.

Sayed Alwadei, director of advocacy for the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, condemned the extension and called for the international community to speak out.

“Nabeel was reporting torture in Jau, which we have witnesses and photographic evidence of. Bahrain has gone after him instead of the perpetrators,” he said, in a press release.

“The EU and UK must speak strongly against Nabeel trial and for freedom of expression without judicial harassment."

The United States and Britain, both allies of Bahrian, have demanded Rajab's release and the dropping of cases against him.

In a tweet on Sunday, the UK Mission in Geneva said it was “following” Rajab's case.

In January, the activist was sentenced to six months in prison for 'insulting public institutions' in his tweets.

He is awaiting the result of an appeal in that case, expected on May 4.

Rajab, who has led anti-government marches and heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was freed last May after serving two years in jail for taking part in unauthorised protests.

Bahrain, home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, has been rocked by unrest since security forces crushed Shiite-led protests in 2011 demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

In a letter printed in the New York Times on April 10, Rajab appealed to US President Barack Obama for support.

"The citizens of Bahrain and her neighbors have extraordinary potential," he wrote. "With unshackled voices, we can build stability and challenge extremism. What we need today is space for tolerance, plurality, and honest dialogue, the foundations of a democratic process that the reprisals against me and my colleagues seek to undermine."