Iran has censured a “cruel” ruling by Bahrain’s highest court that upheld a life sentence against prominent opposition figure Sheikh Ali Salman, saying the Manama regime is after stifling all critical voices in the kingdom.
“Issuing a cruel verdict based on unsubstantial accusations against him (Sheikh Salman) shows that the Bahraini government, by relying on the support of some foreign countries, is pursuing a plan to eliminate any peaceful voice of protest in the country,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Tuesday.
Bahrain’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld life sentences against three opposition leaders, including top cleric Sheikh Salman, on charges of spying for Qatar. The verdicts are final and cannot be appealed.
Salman, the head of Bahrain’s banned al-Wefaq opposition bloc, and two other senior al-Wefaq leaders Sheikh Hassan Sultan and Ali Alaswad had initially received the jail terms in November.
Qassemi further criticized the international community’s silence on Bahrain’s inhumane measures.
He slammed the “hypocritical” position of the US on Manama’s policies and said Washington has given the green light to the Bahraini government to suppress the dissidents by selling arms to the regime and providing it with “full political support.”
Instead of fully relying on foreign support for meeting the country’s security needs, Bahraini officials had better solve the “self-made crisis” in the country by holding real and serious talks with opposition groups and fulfilling the Bahraini people’s legitimate demands, Qassemi said.
Rights groups have denounced the ruling as a travesty of justice.
The London-based human rights group Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said the verdict marked the end of a “long, flawed trial.”
Amnesty International also on Monday blasted Bahrain for upholding a life sentence against Sheikh Salman, describing the verdict as another blow to the freedom of expression in the country.
“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 decision to uphold Sheikh Ali Salman’s conviction and life prison sentence following an unfair trial highlights the authorities’ determination to silence critical voices,” said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East director of campaigns.
Thousands of anti-regime protesters have regularly held demonstrations in Bahrain ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-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. In March 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 gotten arrested in the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.