|Date: Nov 5, 2018|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Opposition chief in Bahrain gets life in jail over Qatar spy|
|Agence France Presse|
DUBAI: Bahrain sentenced the head of the country’s Shiite opposition movement to life in prison Sunday for spying for rival Gulf state Qatar in a ruling rights groups have called a travesty. Sheikh Ali Salman, who headed the now-banned Al-Wefaq movement, and two of his aides had been acquitted by the high criminal court in June, a verdict the public prosecution appealed.
The public prosecutor said in a statement that the three had been unanimously sentenced by the appeals court for “acts of hostility” against Bahrain and “communicating with Qatari officials ... to overthrow constitutional order.”
Bahrain, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, severed all ties with Qatar in 2017, banning their citizens from travel to or communication with the emirate over its alleged ties to both Iran and radical Islamist groups. Sunday’s verdict against the charismatic Shiite religious leader can still be appealed.
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.
Salman’s Al-Wefaq was dissolved by court order in 2016. The cleric is currently serving a four-year sentence in a separate case “inciting hatred” in the kingdom. The leftist opposition National Democratic Action Society, or Al-Waad, was banned the following year over allegations of links to terrorists.
Human rights groups have said cases against activists in Bahrain men and women, religious and secular fail to meet the basic standards of fair trials.
Amnesty and HRW categorize Salman and other jailed opposition leaders prisoners of conscience.
Advocacy groups, including Amnesty, slammed Sunday’s ruling against the 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,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director.
“Sheikh Ali Salman is a prisoner of conscience who is being held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.”