2018: Bahraini Opposition Leader, from Acquittal to Life Imprisonment in Case Involving Political Conflict with Qatar
2019-01-10 - 3:48 am
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Dramatic developments have been witnessed in the case of "spying" for Qatar, which was raised by the authorities in Bahrain against the opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman and Al-Wefaq officials Sheikh Hassan Sultan and Ali Al-Aswad following the severing of relations with Qatar on June 5th, 2017.
On June 21, 2018, the first instance court acquitted opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman and Al-Wefaq officials Sheikh Hassan Sultan and Ali Al-Aswad (both residing abroad) of charges of "communicating with Qatar." The acquittal meant Salman would finish serving his sentence in his first case by the end of 2018, specifically on December 28.
The prosecution; however, appealed against the acquittal, although the United States urged it not to appeal in order to push the reconciliation process forward. This US call was criticized by Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, who deemed it interference in the jurisdiction of the judiciary.
The Bahraini Court of Appeal (November 4, 2018) surprised local and international public opinion by voiding the acquittal, and convicted Salman, Sultan and Al-Aswad of "communicating with Qatar," sentencing them to life imprisonment.
Commenting on the verdict, Salman only said: "For me God sufficeth, and He is the best disposer of affairs," in a telephone conversation with his family.
Amnesty International has described the Bahraini Court of Appeal's ruling against the opposition leader as a dangerous sign that the authorities in Bahrain continue their arbitrary and illegal policies against peaceful dissidents and activists.
For its part, the British Foreign Office, a few hours after the announcement of the verdict, expressed serious concern.
Following the issuance of the appeal, Qatar condemned in a statement what it described as "continued effort to shove its name in Bahrain's political differences and internal conflicts», vehemently denying what was known in the media as the case of communication with Qatar.
Bahrain played a key role in incitement against Qatar after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Doha on June 5, 2017. It worked on linking the Bahraini opposition, which demands political reforms, to the conflict with Doha. To that end, it broadcasted call records that go back to 2011 between Qatari officials and Bahraini dissidents within the framework of a regional initiative to defuse the crisis in the country.
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), appointed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa mid 2011, confirms in paragraph 525 that the Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani led a mediation between the Bahraini government and the opposition to settle the conflict.
The Qatari PM said, in a television interview on official state tv (October 25, 2017), the mediation launched by Qatar to resolve the conflict in Bahrain was carried out in coordination with the US and Bahrain, and complies with the BICI report.
"America asked us to mediate in the Bahraini crisis and we agreed with the Bahrain King (Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa) to a peaceful solution with the protestors and their withdrawal from the roundabout," he added, denying accusations of plotting to topple the ruling Al Khalifa family.
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