January 28, 2019 / 9:12 AM / 4 months ago

Bahrain upholds life sentence against opposition leaders: BNA

FILE PHOTO: Bahrain's main opposition party Al Wefaq leader Sheikh Ali Salman speaks to Reuters at the party's headquarters in Bilad Al Qadeem, west of Manama, October 28, 2014. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo

DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain’s highest court upheld life sentences against three opposition leaders on charges of spying for Qatar, state news agency BNA and a rights group said on Monday.

Al-Wefaq secretary-general Sheikh Ali Salman and two senior al-Wefaq leaders Sheikh Hassan Sultan and Ali Alaswad were sentenced to life imprisonment in November, overturning a previous acquittal.

The decision was made by the Bahrain’s highest court of appeal, the Court of Cassation.

Al-Wefaq, which has strong links to the country’s Shi’ite Muslim majority, has campaigned for social and political reforms in the country, which is ruled by a Sunni Muslim royal family.

Al-Wefaq said in a statement the ruling was made for “political reasons”.

Amnesty International’s Middle East Campaigns Director Samah Hadid, said: “Today’s verdict is yet another nail in the coffin for the right to freedom of expression in Bahrain and exposes the country’s justice system as a complete farce.”

The London-based human rights group Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemned the decision and said it marked the end of a “long, flawed trial”.

Since the Bahrain authorities crushed street protests in 2011, demonstrators have clashed frequently with security forces, who have been targeted by several bomb attacks. Manama says Qatar supports the unrest, accusations denied by Doha.

Sultan and Alaswad were tried in absentia. Salman is already serving a four-year prison sentence for inciting hatred and insulting the interior ministry, after he was arrested in 2015.

Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Alison Williams, William Maclean

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