Bahrain’s main opposition group, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, has censured the recent jail terms handed down to scores of people over taking part in a sit-in in 2017.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, al-Wefaq accused Manama’s judiciary of convicting “innocent people” after a court handed down prison terms to 167 Bahrainis for holding a sit-in in protest at the regime’s decision to revoke the citizenship of prominent Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim almost two years ago.
The movement called on the international community to wake up and take note of the human rights violation unfolding in Bahrain.
The defendants convicted earlier in the day received sentences ranging from one to 10 years behind bars. They were charged with rioting and taking part in an illegal gathering.
On May 23, 2017, Bahraini forces raided the village of Diraz, which had been under a military siege for almost a year, and stormed into the home of Sheikh Isa Qassim, putting the cleric under house arrest.
The ailing cleric has since left the country to receive medical treatment.
Bahrain’s prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim was been flown to the UK for medical treatment, marking an end to more than a year of house arrest.
Regime forces killed at least five demonstrators, wounded dozens and arrested over 280 people during the crackdown.
In its statement, al-Wefaq blasted Bahrain’s justice system for not trying “the killers and criminals who killed five innocent, unarmed citizens and shot them with live rounds alive in cold blood.”
Bahraini authorities stripped the cleric of his citizenship on June 20, 2016. They later dissolved the Islamic Enlightenment Institution founded by Sheikh Qassim as well as the opposition al-Risala Islamic Association.
Anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain regularly since February 2011.
They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.
Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.
Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the crackdown.