A court in Bahrain has given the leader of the country’s largest leftist political party a one-year prison sentence for “inciting hatred against the political regime.”
The court issued the sentence against Ibrahim Sharif, the secretary general of the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), on Wednesday. It, however, spared him on the more serious charge of “promoting political change through forceful means and threats.”
The office of Bahrain’s Prosecutor General, however, expressed disappointment that the latter charge was dismissed and said it may appeal against the ruling to the country’s Court of Cessation.
Sharif was first found guilty of the charges in 2011 over his involvement in the popular uprising that began to engulf the country earlier that year. He then started to serve a five-year sentence, but was released from prison on June 19, 2015 due to “royal amnesty.”
He was rearrested last year after criticizing the Bahraini regime during a memorial ceremony for a victim of the unrest and faced the charges again.
Last October, Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director for New York-based rights NGO Human Rights Watch, called on the ruling Bahraini regime to immediately release Sharif as well as Sheikh Ali Salman, the secretary general of Bahrain’s main opposition bloc al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, saying the regime had to opt for dialogue instead of suppression.
“Salman and Sharif have consistently supported peaceful political reform and should be at a negotiating table with Bahrain’s government, not languishing behind bars,” said Stork, who called them “unjustly imprisoned” figures.
Shia cleric Salman was arrested on December 28, 2014 after Manama accused him of seeking regime change and collaborating with foreign powers.
Bahrain, a close ally of the United States in the Persian Gulf region, has been witnessing almost daily protests against the ruling Al Khalifa dynasty since mid-February 2011. Bahrain’s ongoing heavy-handed crackdown on peaceful demonstrations has left scores of people dead and hundreds injured.