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Human rights groups criticize Bahraini cleric’s sentence

Human rights groups have strongly condemned Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifah regime for upholding a nine-year prison sentence against distinguished Shia cleric and opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman.

“Today’s shocking verdict is another example of Bahrain’s flagrant disregard for the right to freedom of expression. Sheikh Ali Salman is a prisoner of conscience,” Deputy Director of Campaigns at Amnesty International's Beirut regional office Samah Hadid said on Monday.

Hadid said the prominent cleric has been put behind bars for seeking to achieve reforms and to hold those responsible for human rights violations to account.

“Instead of punishing him for peaceful criticism, the Bahraini authorities must order his immediate and unconditional release,” the Amnesty official said, stressing, “The international community can no longer turn a blind eye to the Bahraini authorities’ relentless persecution of government critics and human rights activists with the sole purpose of crushing any form of peaceful dissent or opposition to the government.”

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy also sharply criticized the verdict against the secretary general of Bahrain’s dissolved main opposition bloc, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society.

Sheikh Salman was initially sentenced to four years in prison. Bahrain’s Supreme Court of Appeal increased his jail term to nine years on May 30.

The cleric was arrested in December 2014 on charges of attempting to overthrow the Manama regime and collaborating with foreign powers.

Sheikh Salman has denied the charges, saying he has been seeking reforms in the country through peaceful means.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has repeatedly called on the Manama regime to release the 51-year-old cleric.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom on February 14, 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and a just system representing all Bahrainis be established.

On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to Bahrain to assist the Manama government in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown on anti-regime activists.


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