TEHRAN (Press Shia) – An appeals court in Bahrain Sunday began a retrial of Shiite opposition chief Sheikh Ali Salman, jailed for nine years for allegedly inciting hatred and calling for forceful regime change.
The head of the Al-Wefaq group attended the hearing in Manama but refused to answer the judge's questions, a judicial source said, AFP reported.
His lawyers spoke in his defense, insisting that Salman was innocent, the source added.
The retrial was then postponed until another session to be held on December 4 and the cleric was remanded in custody.
The retrial had been ordered in mid-October by the kingdom’s Court of Cassation, also known as the Supreme Court of Appeal, which has the ultimate say in appeal requests in the country.
Sheikh Salman was arrested in December 2014 for backing reforms in the country through peaceful means.
He was then sentenced on June 16, 2015 to four years in prison at a trial, which charged him with “publicly insulting the Interior Ministry” and “publicly inciting others to disobey the law” through his speeches.
UK-based rights body Amnesty International described that trial as “unfair,” urging the regime in Manama to respect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
After appealing the verdict, the Supreme Court of Appeal increased Salman’s prison sentence to nine years in May on charges of inciting violence and calling for anti-regime demonstrations.
Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the Persian Gulf region, has been witnessing almost daily protests against the ruling Al Khalifah dynasty since mid-February 2011.
The authorities have also ruled that the assets belonging to al-Wefaq be auctioned off. The crackdown on al-Wefaq has drawn criticism from the United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon and prominent rights groups.
Manama’s heavy-handed crackdown on demonstrations, aided by Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, has left scores of people dead and hundreds others injured.