SHAFAQNA – A Bahraini court today jailed a member of the main opposition Al-Wefaq bloc for two years for “inciting freedom of speech”, the Shiite grouping and authorities said.
Majeed Milad, a member of Al-Wefaq’s delegation which took part in a “national dialogue” that failed despite several rounds of negotiations, was handed a two-year sentence for making “a speech… Demanding just political reform”, the bloc said.
Bahraini authorities crushed Shiite-led peaceful protests a month after they erupted on February 14, 2011.
The gap has since been growing between the al-Khalifa authorities and their opponents, mainly from the Gulf state’s Shiite majority.
In a statement received by AFP, Bahrain’s public prosecutor Ahmed al-Qorashi said “the lower criminal court today sentenced an individual to two years in prison on charges of inciting non-compliance with the law”.
“The defendant was questioned in the presence of his lawyers and provided with the opportunity to meet his legal team throughout,” said Qorashi without naming Milad, who can appeal the ruling.
But Al-Wefaq’s statement described Milad’s trial as “evidence … Of the complete absence of any level of freedom of speech and expression” in Bahrain.
The bloc, whose leader Sheikh Ali Salman was himself jailed in June for four years on alleged charges of inciting disobedience, urged the international community to take a “clear stance to end the repression of free expression in Bahrain”.
The Bahraini judiciary has come under fire by many human rights groups for handing down long-term sentences to anti-regime protesters and activists in the country.
Amnesty International and other rights groups have repeatedly censured the Manama regime over the “rampant” human rights abuses against opposition activists and anti-government protesters.
Since mid-February 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations on an almost daily basis in the streets of the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom, calling for the Al Khalifa family to relinquish power.
Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in the ongoing heavy-handed crackdown on the peaceful rallies.