Bahrain’s appeals court handed down life sentences Sunday to three senior opposition members. Sheikh Ali Salman and two other men, all members of the now-outlawed Al-Wefaq movement had been acquitted by the criminal court on charges of spying for Qatar.
Salman, the leader of the outlawed group, is currently imprisoned on a separate charge. The two other men were tried in absentia. Human rights group Amnesty International called the life sentences a “travesty of justice.”
“This verdict … demonstrates the Bahraini authorities’ relentless and unlawful efforts to silence any form of dissent,” Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director Heba Morayef said. “Sheikh Ali Salman is a prisoner of conscience who is being held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.”
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have all severed ties with Qatar, alleging it has ties with Iran and radical Islamist groups.
Bahrain’s public prosecutor appealed the criminal court’s ruling that acquitted the three men. Sunday’s ruling can also be appealed. Bahrain’s King Hamad has called for parliamentary elections later this month. Members of outlawed opposition parties are banned from seeking office.