Canadian man arrested in Bahrain court house

Former Ottawa resident Naser al-Raas has been arrested in a Bahrain court after he showed up in a last-ditch bid to get out of a five-year prison sentence.

Verdict on petition to overturn prison sentence expected Feb. 16

A Canadian man who lost his appeal of a five-year prison sentence and had been hiding out in Bahrain was arrested in court on Wednesday, CBC News has learned.

Canadian Naser al-Raas was arrested in a Bahrain court on Wednesday when he showed up hoping a five-year prison sentence would be set aside. ((Family photo) )

Naser al-Raas, 29, was convicted in October for charges of illegal assembly, rioting and incitement in the Arab Spring protests. He was sentenced to five years in prison, where he alleges he has been tortured. He had been in hiding since the conviction.

Katie Edwards of the group Free Naser in Canada said in an email Wednesday the Bahrain court is expected to make a decision on whether to overturn al-Raas's sentence on Feb. 16.

His fiancée Zainab Ahmed told CBC News al-Raas was arrested Wednesday afternoon when he showed up in court in a final bid to get out of the five-year sentence.

She said al-Raas only showed up because his lawyer thought his client would be found innocent. Ahmed said she didn't get the chance to see him before he was taken into custody.

"I'm so upset, so mad, so sad," Ahmed said between sobs in a Skype conversation with the CBC's Ashley Burke. "I'm afraid they will torture him again. 

"I'm begging the Canadian government to do anything."

Canada 'deeply concerned'

After learning of al-Raas's latest arrest, Diane Ablonczy, the minister of state of foreign affairs (Americas and consular affairs), said in a statement Canada would "continue to raise Canada’s concerns regarding Mr. Al-Raas’s situation with the Bahraini government and will urge that his case be resolved expeditiously".

"We remain deeply concerned about Mr. al-Raas' situation in Bahrain," Ablonczy said.

"We call on the Bahraini government to review the case in light of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry to ensure, among other things, free political expression and protection from arbitrary detention."

Al-Raas had been living and working in Kuwait but went to Bahrain in April to visit his sisters and fiancée. He was then accused of joining the demonstrations.

He said he was arrested when he was about to board a plane to return to Kuwait at the Bahrain International Airport. His passport was confiscated and he was taken to Al Qala prison.

The Kuwait-born Canadian citizen and former Ottawa resident fears he will die in custody if he continues to serve the five-year sentence.

Passport, ID confiscated

He has claimed he was tortured for a month last year for a similar offence and wants all charges dropped. He said authorities confiscated his passport and other identification.

He also said he will be deprived of medication he needs for a heart and lung condition.

Ablonczy said Canadian officials continue to press for the case to be resolved quickly, particularly in light of "Mr. al-Raas' grave health concerns."

Last fall, al-Raas criticized the Canadian government for observing his trial but not doing enough to help him.