Date :Tuesday, November 6th, 2018 | Time : 11:36 |ID: 77112 | Print

Life sentence for Bahrain opposition leader is travesty of justice

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SHAFAQNA Sheikh Ali Salman, the Bahraini Shiite leader was sentenced to life in prison by a Bahraini court , overturning previous acquittals on charges of spying for Qatar in what an international rights group called  a travesty of justice.

On Sunday, the court overturned the acquittal of the 52-year-old secretary general of the dissolved al-Wefaq National Islamic Society and two of his colleagues, Hassan Sultan and Ali al-Aswad, and levied charges of collaborating with Qatar “with the purpose of overthrowing the regime” against them.

The court went on to say that the trio had transferred confidential information to Qatar and received financial support in return. Sultan and Aswad were tried in absentia, press tv reported.

Reacting to the Bahraini court’s verdict, Amnesty International criticized Sunday’s ruling against the three senior opposition figures.

“This verdict is a travesty of justice that demonstrates the Bahraini authorities’ relentless and unlawful efforts to silence any form of dissent. Sheikh Ali Salman is a prisoner of conscience who is being held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression”, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director Heba Morayef said.

“The Bahraini authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Sheikh Ali Salman and quash his politically motivated conviction and sentence”.

“The international community’s silence on the continued crackdown on dissent must also come to an end. Instead of ignoring criticism of Bahrain’s human rights record, the country’s political allies must use their influence to push for the release of Sheikh Ali Salman and all prisoners of conscience in Bahrain”.

Brian Dooley, a senior adviser at Human Rights First, also said Sunday’s ruling “confirms there is now no tolerance for any dissent in Bahrain,” according to The A.P., New York Times reported.

Alistair Burt, the British Middle East minister, tweeted that he was “very concerned” to hear of further sentencing of Salman. He said the Foreign Office would “continue to closely follow the case and raise with the government of Bahrain as part of our open dialogue”.

Bahraini activists said Sunday’s verdict highlighted a broader regional policy toward freedom – the same policy that saw Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi murdered this month.

The verdict comes ahead of controversial parliamentary elections that Bahrain’s King Hamad has called for November 24, Iran daily reported.

Additionally, Wefaq stated that the Bahraini judiciary is a tool in the hands of the ruling Manama regime, and the recent life terms handed down to Sheikh Salman and his two colleagues reflect the magnitude of turmoil in the kingdom.

The statement concluded that the Bahraini people are now more aware of the need for change, and that the regime’s policy of deception is no more effective.

Bahrain, one of Saudi Arabia’s closest allies in the Gulf, imposed a boycott on Qatar last year, accusing it of supporting terrorism and backing the Muslim Brotherhood. The country is predominantly Shia but led by a Sunni royal family. The regime has made progress in ending modern slavery but its repression of political opposition has been widely condemned, The Guardian mentions.

Background

Sheikh Ali Salman is the Secretary General of Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society (Al-Wefaq).

In 2015 he was sentenced to four years in jail, after an unfair trial, on charges relating to speeches he made in 2012 and 2014, including at the Al-Wefaq General Assembly, in which he  spoke about the opposition’s continuing determination to reach power in Bahrain, to achieve the demands of the 2011 uprising through peaceful means and to hold those responsible for committing human rights abuses to account. He also highlighted the need for equality for all Bahrainis, including the ruling family. His arrest took place a few days after he was re-elected for a fourth term as Secretary General of al-Wefaq, amnesty noticed.

On November 1, 2017, opposition leader Sheikh Salman and his two assistants were charged with “spying on behalf of a foreign country… with the aim of carrying out subversive acts against Bahrain and harming its national interests.”

Sheikh Salman was also charged with “revealing defense secrets to a foreign country and disseminating information that would harm Bahrain’s status and reputation.”

The senior Bahraini Shia cleric has been in jail on a nine-year prison sentence since late 2014 for what the Manama regime has called “insulting” government officials, “inciting” unrest through his speeches targeting the authorities during the 2011 uprising, attempting to overthrow the regime and collaborating with foreign powers.

Sheikh Salman denies all the charges, saying he has merely been seeking reforms in the country through peaceful means.

On June 21, the high criminal court in Bahrain had acquitted Sheikh Salman and his two aides of the spying charges.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.

On March 5, 2017, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.

 

Read more from Shafaqna:

acquittal of Sheikh Ali Salman a sign of reform in Bahrain?

Verdict in case against Sheikh Ali Salman expected on June 21

Sheikh Ali Salman’s trial adjourned until January 4

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