Bahrain opposition leaders acquitted in Qatar spying case

The kingdom’s attorney general said prosecutors would appeal the ruling



Bahrain’s attorney general said the Public Prosecutor’s Office would appeal a Supreme Criminal Court judgement on Thursday acquitting three opposition leaders accused of spying for Qatar.

Sheikh Ali Salman, Hassan Sultan and Ali Al-Aswad stood accused of harming Bahrain’s economic and national interests, attempting to overthrow its monarchy, disclosing defence secrets, broadcasting false news and rumours and accepting foreign money, according to Bahrain News Agency.

The three leaders of Bahrain’s banned Shia opposition party al-Wefaq were charged last November with meeting Qatari officials as well as affiliated agents inside Lebanese Shi’ite militia Hezbollah with the goal of continuing unrest following the country’s 2011 Arab Spring protests.

The men denied the allegations.

Salman, a prominent cleric and secretary general of the party, was already serving a four-year prison sentence for inciting hatred and insulting the interior ministry after he was arrested in 2015.

Read: Bahrain accuses opposition leaders of spying for Qatar

Al-Aswad, a former MP who avoided jail having left Bahrain for London after his resignation in February 2011, praised the judgement on Twitter and said Salman was expected to be released from prison on December 28.

The court acquitted the group despite “strong evidence” showing communication between them and the state of Qatar, attorney general Osama Al–Awfi argued.

The official added that the acquittal was “inconsistent with the truth of the facts on the charges, which were revealed by the investigations and even the trial itself”.

Bahraini state television in August aired recorded telephone calls between Salman and Qatar’s former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani during the 2011 protests alleged to show they were spurred on by Qatar.

Bahrain joined Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE in a boycott against Qatar that began last June over its alleged links to terrorist groups.

The island kingdom and Saudi Arabia have accused Qatar of stoking unrest in Bahrain by supporting protests and attacks on security forces.

The country’s foreign minister has called for Qatar to be frozen out of the Gulf Cooperation Council if it does not change its stance.

Read: Bahrain foreign minister calls for freezing Qatar out of GCC