Bahrain opposition leader sentenced to life in Qatar spying case

Tried in absentia Ali al Aswad was elected to Bahrain's parliament in 2010 but resigned in 2011 in response to the government's crackdown

Tried in absentia Ali al Aswad was elected to Bahrain's parliament in 2010 but resigned in 2011 in response to the government's crackdown

The UK continues to encourage the Government of Bahrain to deliver on its global and domestic human rights commitments.

Human rights group Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemned the appeals court decision.

A Bahrain appeals court sentenced the leader of the now-shuttered Shiite opposition to life in prison on Sunday for spying for regional rival Qatar.

A statement from the public prosecutor said the court sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman, of the banned al-Wefaq group, and Sheikh Hassan Sultan and Ali Alaswad, members of the same group, to life in jail.

Salman was convicted on charges of "communicating with the state of Qatar, disclosing and handing over defence secrets, and accepting money from a foreign country in return for providing military secrets and information related to the internal situation of the country". Sultan and Aswad were tried in absentia.

The charges relate to an alleged recording of a telephone conversation Sheikh Salman had in 2011 with Qatar's former prime minister and foreign minister, which was broadcast on Bahraini television in August 2017. Members of dissolved opposition parties, including al-Wefaq and the secular al-Waad group, are banned from running.

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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.

The defendants were found guilty of "spying for Qatar to commit acts of hostility against the Kingdom of Bahrain and to harm its national interests, and to obtain sensitive information affecting the security and safety of the country", according to al-Awfi.

Sima Watling, Amnesty International's campaigner on Bahrain, told Al Jazeera from Beirut that the verdict was "absurd".

"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.

Sunday's verdict comes days ahead of Bahrain's November 24 parliamentary elections.

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