Court over­turns jail term of Bahrain op­po­si­tion chief

Court of Cas­sa­tion or­dered a re­trial

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A top court in Bahrain yes­ter­day over­turned a nine-year jail term against Shi­ite op­po­si­tion chief cleric Ali Sal­man, con­victed of in­cit­ing ha­tred and call­ing for force­ful regime change. The Court of the Cas­sa­tion or­dered a re­trial of the head of the Al-We­faq po­lit­i­cal for­ma­tion be­fore the Ap­peals Court, said a ju­di­cial source. The same court over­turned three death sen­tences and seven life im­pris­on­ment sen­tences against a group con­victed of killing three po­lice, in­clud­ing an Emi­rati of­fi­cer in a bomb at­tack more than two years ago.

Sal­man had been sen­tenced in July 2015 to four years in jail after be­ing con­victed of in­cit­ing ha­tred in the Sunni-ruled Gulf king­dom. But the ap­peals court in May more than dou­bled his jail term to nine years after re­vers­ing an ear­lier ac­quit­tal on charges of call­ing for regime change by force. Sal­man’s ar­rest in De­cem­ber 2014 sparked protests in Shi­ite-ma­jor­ity Bahrain. The cas­sa­tion court had re­jected a re­quest to re­lease the cleric ear­lier this month.

His jail sen­tence came dur­ing a crack­down on the Gulf na­tion’s largest op­po­si­tion group, which has been dis­solved by a court or­der over ac­cu­sa­tions of “har­bor­ing ter­ror­ism”. Al-We­faq had the largest bloc in par­lia­ment be­fore law­mak­ers walked out in Fe­bru­ary 2011 in protest over a deadly crack­down on Arab Spring-in­spired protests. The crack­down on We­faq has drawn crit­i­cism from UN chief Ban Ki­moon and Bahrain’s al­lies in Wash­ing­ton, as well as rights groups. Hun­dreds of Shi­ites have been ar­rested and put on trial since se­cu­rity forces backed by Saudi-led troops crushed in March 2011 month-long protests that de­manded demo­cratic re­forms.

Au­thor­i­ties have also stripped at least 261 peo­ple of their cit­i­zen­ship since 2012, ac­cord­ing to the Bahrain Cen­tre for Hu­man Rights, in­clud­ing the coun­try’s Shi­ite spir­i­tual leader Sheikh Isa Qas­sim. In the other rul­ing, the court of cas­sa­tion or­dered a re­trial of the case of 10 de­fen­dants found guilty of plant­ing a bomb in March 2014 in Deih Shi­ite vil­lage, which killed an Emi­rati po­lice of­fi­cer and two Bahraini po­lice­men. The Emi­rati of­fi­cer was part of the Saudi-led Gulf force. Ap­peals court had on May 31 up­held the three death sen­tences and life terms for the other seven who were also stripped of their cit­i­zen­ships.

— AFP

AZ ZINJ, Bahrain: File photo shows a Bahraini cleric (left) walk­ing past a card­board cutout bear­ing the por­trait of Sheikh Ali Sal­man, head of the Shi­ite op­po­si­tion move­ment Al-We­faq, dur­ing a protest against his ar­rest, at Al We­faq head­quar­ter build­ing, in the vil­lage of Zinj. A top court yes­ter­day over­turned a nine-year jail term against Shi­ite op­po­si­tion chief cleric Ali Sal­man, con­victed of in­cit­ing ha­tred and call­ing for force­ful regime change.

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