Date :Saturday, February 2nd, 2019 | Time : 08:10 |ID: 85279 | Print

World reacts as Bahrain upholds life sentence against Shia cleric

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SHAFAQNA- World have strongly condemned Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifah regime for upholding life sentence against Shia cleric Sheikh Ali Salman, continuing a yearslong crackdown on all dissent in the island nation.

The Court of Cassation in Bahrain on Monday confirmed life imprisonment sentences against the 53-year-old Sheikh Salman, who is the secretary general of the now-dissolved al-Wefaq movement, and two of his assistants over charges of colluding with Qatar to commit subversion. The verdicts are final and cannot be appealed.

Sheikh Salman, along with two senior al-Wefaq leaders, namely Sheikh Hassan Sultan and Ali Alaswad, had been charged in November last year with “communicating with Qatar to commit hostile acts aimed at destabilizing the state.”

Sheikh Salman reacted to the Monday verdict by saying, “I will endure all hardship for the sake of Allah and the people.”

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 Shia Bahraini cleric has been in jail on a nine-year prison sentence since late 2014 for what the Manama regime has described as “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.

In November 2017, Bahraini authorities brought new spurious espionage charges against him in relation to communications he had with Qatar back in 2011.

At the time Qatar was expected to play a mediating role between the Bahraini government and the opposition following the violent crackdown on peaceful protests and the potential mediation efforts were public and well-documented, with the Bahraini government’s full knowledge and United States’ support.

Bahrain’s High Criminal Court initially found Sheikh Ali Salman innocent of these politically motivated charges related to espionage in June 2018, but the Public Prosecution Office immediately appealed the verdict. Following several postponements of the appeals trial, Bahrain’s High Court of Appeals overturned the acquittal and sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman and his two co-defendants to life in prison in November 2018, a month before Sheikh Ali was supposed to be released from prison for serving his four year sentence.

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

Al-Wefaq said that the Bahraini judiciary was a tool in the hands of the ruling Manama regime, and the ruling reflected the magnitude of the turmoil in the country.

A decision by Bahrain’s highest court to uphold life sentence for prominent Shia cleric and opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman is “political,” an activist Saeed Shahabi, with the Bahrain Freedom Movement told Press TV in an interview on Monday, adding that there is no independent judiciary in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom.

Rights groups criticized the ruling

The Court of Cassation’s ruling Monday ensures he won’t be released and continues an imprisonment that United Nations experts have criticized as “a breach of his fundamental human rights”, VOANEWS reported.

Human rights groups have frequently said cases against activists in Bahrain- men and women, religious and secular- fail to meet the fundamental requirements of fair trials.

Rights groups have denounced the ruling as a travesty of justice.

The London-based human rights group, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said the verdict marked the end of a “long, flawed trial.”

“This is political revenge and an insult to justice,” said Sayed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute of Rights and Democracy. “Punishing peaceful dissidents for leading protests against the corrupt ruling family has nothing to do with justice.”

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) strongly rejects the court’s decision to confirm Sheikh Ali Salman’s life sentence and the political nature of the case. ADHRB calls on Bahrain to drop all charges against Sheikh Ali and to release him and all other political prisoners, ADHRB told.

“The continued targeting and harassment of Bahrain’s opposition by the government, as demonstrated by the confirmation of Sheikh Ali Salman’s life sentence, shows the extent Bahrain has cracked down on civil and political space,” said ADHRB Executive Director Husain Abdulla.

“Sheikh Ali Salman’s case is inherently political and the Government of Bahrain must drop the arbitrary charges against him and immediately release him.”

Amnesty International also on Monday blasted Bahrain for upholding a life sentence against Sheikh Salman, describing the verdict as another blow to the freedom of expression in the country.

“Today’s verdict is yet another nail in the coffin for the right to freedom of expression in Bahrain and exposes the country’s justice system as a complete farce. The decision to uphold Sheikh Ali Salman’s conviction and life prison sentence following an unfair trial highlights the authorities’ determination to silence critical voices,” said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East director of campaigns.

“The Bahraini authorities must quash Sheikh Ali Salman’s conviction and release him immediately and unconditionally. They should also rescind the decision to dissolve the two opposition political groups, al-Wefaq and Wa’ad, and guarantee the right of everyone to freedom of association,” she added, referring to another political movement dissolved by the Bahraini regime.

European Union denounces Bahrain ruling on Sheikh Salman

The European Union (EU) has censured a ruling by Bahrain’s Supreme Court to uphold a life sentence for prominent opposition figure Sheikh Ali Salman as “a further step against dissenting voices.”

The final “verdict marks a further step against dissenting voices and undermines the residual chances for an inclusive political dialogue in the Kingdom of Bahrain,” an EU spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

Brussels also reiterated its “concerns over the increasingly limited political space in Bahrain.”

“The European Union expects Bahrain to fulfill its international and national Human Rights obligations, including guaranteeing the right to a fair trial, in the interest of the long term stability of the country and its citizens,” the statement added.

Iran raps Bahrain’s ‘cruel’ ruling on Sheikh Salman

Iran has censured a “cruel” ruling by Bahrain’s highest court that upheld a life sentence against prominent opposition figure Sheikh Ali Salman, saying the Manama regime is after stifling all critical voices in the kingdom.

“Issuing a cruel verdict based on unsubstantial accusations against him (Sheikh Salman) shows that the Bahraini government, by relying on the support of some foreign countries, is pursuing a plan to eliminate any peaceful voice of protest in the country,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Tuesday.

Qassemi further criticized the international community’s silence on Bahrain’s inhumane measures.

He slammed the “hypocritical” position of the US on Manama’s policies and said Washington has given the green light to the Bahraini government to suppress the dissidents by selling arms to the regime and providing it with “full political support.”

“Instead of fully relying on foreign support for meeting the country’s security needs, Bahraini officials had better solve the “self-made crisis” in the country by holding real and serious talks with opposition groups and fulfilling the Bahraini people’s legitimate demands”, Qassemi said.

The strategic Persian Gulf kingdom is a key regional ally of the United States and serves as home for its Fifth Fleet.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have regularly held demonstrations in Bahrain ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. In March 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 gotten arrested in the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown, press tv reported.

The decision by Bahrain’s Court of Cassation to uphold leading Bahraini opposition figure Sheikh Ali Salman’s sentence of life in prison is troubling and indicative of the broader political situation in the kingdom. The government of Bahrain has made it clear they intend to silence and intimidate all opposition.

 

Read more from Shafaqna:

Life sentence for Bahrain opposition leader is travesty of justice

UK MPs from different parties, Calls for Release All Bahrain Political Prisoners

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