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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 April 2019

Bahrain Shiite opposition leader loses appeal against life term

The supreme court confirmed the verdict for 'spying for a foreign state to ... overthrow the government'

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa takes part in a bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump at a hotel in Riyadh. AFP
Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa takes part in a bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump at a hotel in Riyadh. AFP

A Bahraini court on Monday upheld a life sentence for opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman for spying for Qatar.

Salman, who led Al Wefaq, a now-banned movement, was convicted by an appeals court in November in a decision that rights groups called a travesty.

The Supreme Court confirmed the verdict against Salman and two of his aides for "spying for a foreign state to ... overthrow the government", according to a statement released by public prosecutor Osama Al Awfi.

Bahrain in 2017 cut all ties with Qatar as part of a Saudi-led boycott in response to Doha's policies on Iran and terror groups.

The kingdom is a tiny archipelago allied with the US and located between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Hundreds have been jailed in recent years and some stripped of citizenship over "terrorism" linked to Iran.

Ruled for more than two centuries by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty, Bahrain has a majority Shiite Muslim population, according to unofficial estimates contested by the government.

Salman's opposition group, Al Wefaq, was dissolved by court order in 2016. The cleric is serving a four-year sentence in a different case on charges of "inciting hatred" in the kingdom.

After taking office, US President Donald Trump eased restrictions on arms sales to Bahrain, a vital link for western militaries, which is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and a permanent British base.

The kingdom has also banned the secular National Democratic Action Society, or Al Waad, over claims of links to terrorists.

Salman's aides Ali Al Aswad and Hassan Sultan, who had been sentenced to life in their absence, also lost their appeals Monday. Both men are former members of parliament and live outside Bahrain.

The Gulf diplomatic row is now in its second year. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have banned their citizens from travel to Qatar.

Bahraini authorities accuse Tehran of inciting anti-government rallies and have said jailed protesters have been trained and armed by Iran.

Updated: January 29, 2019 05:02 PM

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