The Bahraini judiciary says it will try prominent Shia cleric and opposition figure Sheikh Ali Salman later this month on a charge of “spying” for neighboring Qatar.
The Bahraini Public Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement on Sunday that Salman, the secretary-general of the country’s now-dissolved al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, would be tried alongside two of his colleagues, Hassan Sultan and Ali Mahdi. The trial starts from November 27.
“The prosecution has referred the case in which Ali Salman, Hassan Sultan and Ali Mahdi are accused of spying for the state of Qatar to the High Criminal Court,” the state prosecution said in a Twitter posting.
On November 1, the trio was charged with “spying on behalf of a foreign country … with the aim of carrying out subversive acts against Bahrain and harming its national interests.”
The 52-year-old Shia clergyman was also charged with “revealing defense secrets to a foreign country and disseminating information that would harm Bahrain’s status and reputation.”
The opposition chief has been in jail on a nine-year prison sentence since late 2014 for what the Manama regime has called “insulting” government officials, “inciting” unrest through his speeches targeting the authorities during the 2011 uprising, attempting to overthrow the regime and collaborating with foreign powers.
Sheikh Salman denies all the charges, saying he has merely been seeking reforms in the country through peaceful means.
Amnesty International and other human rights groups have already censured his arrest and called for his release.
The top Shia cleric’s long-term prison sentence has drawn criticism from Bahraini opposition activists and international rights groups.
Al-Wefaq was the largest group in Bahrain’s parliament before its legislators resigned en masse to voice their strong dissent against the pervasive crushing of demonstrations in 2011 that called for an elected government.
Thousands of anti-regime protesters belonging to the Shia majority have been holding demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom in early 2011.
Manama has spared no effort to clamp down on dissent and human rights activists. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to Bahrain to assist Manama in its crackdown.
Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.