Bahrain opposition leader sentenced to life in Qatar spying case


Bahrain's higher appeals court sentenced a defendant to jail for life Sunday over charges of spying for Qatar, Attorney General Osama al-Awfi said.

The court on Sunday overruled the previous acquittal and sentenced all three to life in prison for transferring confidential information and receiving financial support from Qatar.

It was seen as a direct attack on constitutional order in the country, while the defendants leaked sensitive information to the Qatari governments, the prosecutor said.

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.

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 objective of overthrowing the regime" against them.

King Hamad has announced parliamentary elections on November 24 in Bahrain.

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Opposition movements, both religious and secular, have been outlawed since 2011 and hundreds of dissidents imprisoned - many of them stripped of their citizenship in the process.

Advocacy groups, including Amnesty, slammed Sunday's ruling against 53-year-old Salman and his aides, Hassan Sultan and Ali al-Aswad as political reprisal.

"This verdict is a travesty of justice that demonstrates the Bahraini authorities' relentless and unlawful efforts to silence any form of dissent", Amnesty International said in a statement.

Bahrain has also barred members of dissolved opposition groups from running in parliamentary elections due to be held later this month.

Alistair Burt, the British Middle East minister, tweeted that he was "very concerned" to hear of further sentencing of Salman.

"Sheikh Ali Salman is a prisoner of conscience who is being held exclusively for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression", Middle East and North Africa Director Heba Morayef said.

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