0259 GMT October 24, 2019
Sheikh Ali Salman now faces nine years behind bars, up from an earlier four, following his conviction last year on baseless charges including allegedly insulting the Interior Ministry, AP reported.
Salman is the secretary general of Al-Wefaq, the country’s largest Shia political group. He was a key figure in Bahrain’s 2011 pro-democracy demonstrations, which was dominated by the island majority and sought greater political rights from the dictatorial regime.
Authorities crushed the initial uprising in a matter of weeks with help from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Localized protests continue in several communities, with young activists frequently clashing with police.
The case against Salman relates to speeches he gave between 2012 and 2014 in defense of democracy. Al-Wefaq says his words were taken out of context.
Al-Wefaq said Monday’s decision “indicates the regime’s insistence to ignore the calls for a solution to the crisis and entrenches the exacerbating political crisis in Bahrain.”
Al-Wefaq boycotted parliamentary elections in 2014, saying it wants greater power-sharing between elected lawmakers and the monarchy, the release of political prisoners and a prime minister chosen by elected officials. The current prime minister, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, is an uncle of the king and has held power for more than four decades.
Several prominent opposition figures and human-rights activists remain behind bars, including the former secretary general of the secular National Democratic Action Society, Ibrahim Sharif, and father and daughter activists Abdulhadi and Zainab al-Khawaja.