Rights groups demand release of Bahrain activist as trial opens

DUBAI - Twenty six Bahraini and international rights groups have called for the release of prominent activist Nabeel Rajab, who faces trial on Tuesday on charges of sending out anti-government tweets that could carry up to 13 years in prison.
Rajab's case appears to relate to tweets authorities allege he sent last year suggesting security forces had tortured detainees and accusing the government of complicity in killing civilians as part of a Saudi-led war in Yemen.
He was arrested earlier last month as part of what Bahraini rights groups say is an escalating crackdown by the Sunni Muslim-led government on the island's majority Shi'ites.
Government officials have not commented publicly on the case but deny systematic abuses of human rights and have accused the opposition of stirring sectarian hatred in the kingdom and serving the interests of their rival, Shi'ite Iran.