Re­trial of Bahrain se­nior op­po­si­tion leader opens

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MANAMA: An ap­peals court in Bahrain yes­ter­day be­gan a re­trial of Shi­ite op­po­si­tion chief Sheikh Ali Sal­man, jailed for nine years for in­cit­ing ha­tred and call­ing for force­ful regime change. The head of the Al-We­faq group at­tended the hear­ing in Manama but re­fused to an­swer the judge’s ques­tions, a ju­di­cial source said.

His lawyers spoke in his defense, in­sist­ing that Sal­man was in­no­cent, the source added. A ver­dict would be an­nounced on De­cem­ber 4, ad­vo­cate gen­eral Haroun AlZayani said in a state­ment car­ried by the of­fi­cial BNA news agency. Sal­man, be­hind bars since De­cem­ber 2014, was sen­tenced in July last year to four years in prison af­ter be­ing con­victed of in­cit­ing ha­tred in the Sunni-ruled Gulf king­dom. But in May the ap­peals court more than dou­bled his jail term to nine years af­ter re­vers­ing an ear­lier ac­quit­tal on charges of call­ing for regime change by force.

How­ever, on Oc­to­ber 17, Bahrain’s cas­sa­tion court over­turned the nine-year jail sen­tence and or­dered a re­trial. The same court re­jected a re­quest to re­lease the cleric. In July, a court or­dered Al-We­faq’s dis­so­lu­tion for “har­bour­ing ter­ror­ism”, in­cit­ing vi­o­lence and en­cour­ag­ing demon­stra­tions which threat­ened to spark sec­tar­ian strife. The de­ci­sion drew strong crit­i­cism from UN chief Ban Ki-moon, Bahrain’s al­lies in Wash­ing­ton and Lon­don, and Shi­ite-dom­i­nated Iran. 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.

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