Bahrain’s supreme court, whose verdicts are final, on Monday upheld a life term for Shiite opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman for spying for Gulf rival Qatar, a judicial source said.
Salman, who headed the Shiite Al-Wefaq group, was convicted in November of “communicating with Qatari officials… to overthrow constitutional order”, a ruling rights groups have called a travesty.
Salman’s aides Ali al-Aswad and Hassan Sultan, who had been sentenced to life in absentia, also lost their right to appeal. Both men are former MPs and currently reside outside of Bahrain.
Qatar has repeatedly denied accusations of conspiring against Bahrain with Salman.
Bahrain and Qatar have been locked in a bitter regional dispute since June 2017, when a Saudi-led boycott of Doha was enforced over allegations it was cosying up to regional arch-rival Iran and supporting radical Islamist groups.
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates banned their citizens from travel to Qatar.
Ruled for more than two centuries by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty, Bahrain has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011, when security forces crushed Shiite-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.
Bahrain’s two main opposition groups — Al-Wefaq and the secular Waad — are prohibited from representation in parliament.
Bahraini authorities accuse Shiite Iran of provoking unrest in the kingdom. Tehran denies the allegation.
Human rights groups have frequently said cases against activists in Bahrain — men and women, religious and secular — fail to meet the basic standards of fair trials.
A Bahrain court Tuesday sentenced 115 Bahrainis to jail terms ranging from three years to life and stripped them of their nationality for forming an Iran-linked “terrorist” group, the public prosecutor said.
A judicial source told AFP the group were all members of Bahrain’s Shiite majority.
The defendants were found guilty of forming the “Zulfiqar Battalions”, which the court said had received training in Iran and Iraq from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard with “the intent to commit hostile acts” against Bahrain.
According to a statement by the public prosecutor, the group had hidden weapons, tracked targets and planted homemade bombs “with the intent of killing security personnel”, though no casualties had resulted.
The majority were sentenced to more than a decade behind bars, including 53 who were handed down life sentences. Twenty-three other defendants were acquitted.
The prosecutor said 86 of those sentenced were in detention, implying the rest are on the run.
Sunni-ruled, Shiite-majority Bahrain has stripped hundreds of its citizens of their nationality and jailed dozens of high-profile activists and clerics since protests demanding an elected government erupted in early 2011.
The opposition Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) denounced Tuesday’s proceedings, which it said brought the number of Bahrainis stripped of their citizenship to 719 since the crackdown began.
The Bahraini government has accused Shiite Iran of backing the protests and attempting to overthrow the government. Tehran denies involvement.
All is now set for the 5th edition of the Okpekpe Road Race which is scheduled for May 13, 2017 in Okpekpe, Etsako East local government area of Edo state.
Addressing journalists at the Government House in Benin City, the Edo state capital, a team from the organising committee led by Mike Itemuagbor, disclosed that the event has seen some upgrades including a mobile app for access to competition details and the use of transponders and trackers to eliminate cheats.
He disclosed further that the 10km Okpekpe Road Race which is a bronze category event of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), will make Edo state a tourist attraction.
Itemuagbor added that athletes from 11 countries namely, Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea, Turkey, Germany, Bahrain, Morocco, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Burundi and Nigeria, are expected to participate in this year’s edition.
He assured participants of improvements in the competition particularly the VIP race.
“We want to do an effective VIP race, especially those that would run for a cause,” the committee leader stated.
On his part, the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, lauded the organisers for the innovations in the 2017 edition.
A car bomb exploded outside a Sunni Muslim mosque as worshippers attended late-night prayers in a district where members of Bahrain’s royal family live, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.
No one was reported hurt in the attack in Riffa south of the capital Manama late on Wednesday, in what government officials said was an attempt to inflame sectarian tensions.
Bahrain, a majority Shi’ite country but ruled by the Sunni al Khalifa family, has been buffeted by political unrest since 2011, with mostly Shi’ite Bahrainis agitating for democratic reforms and more say in government.
Police were hunting for the assailants, who used a gas cylinder placed inside a vehicle parked outside the mosque, the Interior Ministry said.
Witnesses said several vehicles were destroyed in the explosion but there were no reports of injuries.
The attack was condemned by the main Shi’ite opposition group, Wefaq, as well as government officials including King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa.
Authorities have largely crushed the revolt in the island which is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet and sits between top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and Washington’s main regional antagonist Iran, but small-scale clashes and protests erupt almost daily.
National reconciliation talks between the government and opposition parties have made little progress since they began in February.
King Hamad ordered swift action against all those who incite violence, state news agency BNA said.
In a statement on its website, Al Wefaq condemned the attack, saying “the demands of the political majority in Bahrain is democratic transition that adopted peaceful methods.”