More than 20 MPs from seven parties in the UK parliament have urged the British foreign secretary to echo US government calls for the release of the Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, whose trial begins on Friday.

Rajab, who faces up to 15 years in jail for comments made on Twitter criticising the war in Yemen, has been held in pre-trial detention since June. He is also accused of “defaming the state” by publishing “false news .. and malicious rumours that undermine the prestige of the kingdom” in an opinion piece in the New York Times.

He was arrested on separate charges of “spreading false information and rumours with the aim of discrediting the state”.

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