Retrial of Bahrain senior opposition leader opens
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.