Bahrain’s highest court has upheld life sentences against three opposition leaders, including top cleric Sheikh Ali Salman, on false charges of spying for Qatar.
Al-Wefaq secretary-general Salman and two senior al-Wefaq leaders Sheikh Hassan Sultan and Ali Alaswad were sentenced to life imprisonment in November. The verdicts issued Monday are final and cannot be appealed.
The 53-year-old Salman was convicted in November of “communicating with Qatari officials… to overthrow constitutional order,” a ruling rights groups have denounced 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.”
Back then, Wefaq stated that the Bahraini judiciary was a tool in the hands of the ruling Manama regime, and the ruling reflected the magnitude of turmoil in the kingdom.
Sultan and Alaswad, who had been sentenced to life in absentia, also lost their right to appeal.
Qatar, currently embroiled in a rift with Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies, has categorically denied accusations of conspiring with Salman against Bahrain.
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates severed their diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. The four countries also imposed a land, sea, and air blockade on Qatar.
Human rights groups have frequently said cases against activists in Bahrain fail to meet the fundamental requirements of fair trials.
Thousands of anti-regime protesters have regularly held demonstrations in Bahrain ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom 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 got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s iron-fisted security response.