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A nine year prison sentence against the Bahraini opposition leader, Sheikh Ali Salman, was upheld today by a Bahraini Appeal Court, after a retrial, in another blow to freedom of expression in the country. In response to the verdict Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Deputy Director of Campaigns said:

“Today’s shocking verdict is another example of Bahrain’s flagrant disregard for the right to freedom of expression. Sheikh Ali Salman is a prisoner of conscience. He has been put behind bars merely for peacefully reaffirming his party’s determination to pursue power in Bahrain, to achieve the reform demands of the 2011 uprising and to hold those responsible for human rights violations to account. Instead of punishing him for peaceful criticism the Bahraini authorities must order his immediate and unconditional release.”

“The international community can no longer turn a blind eye to the Bahraini authorities’ relentless persecution of government critics and human rights activists with the sole purpose of crushing any form of peaceful dissent or opposition to the government. Instead of ignoring criticism of Bahrain’s human rights record, its international allies must use their influence to push for the release of Sheikh Ali Salman and all prisoners of conscience in Bahrain.”

Sheikh Ali Salman is the Secretary General of the main opposition party in Bahrain, al-Wefaq national Islamic Society, which was dissolved in July 2016. Following his sentencing in 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also called on the Bahraini authorities for his immediate release. An initial four-year-sentence against Sheikh Ali Salman was more than doubled to nine years during the first appeal. In October 2016, Court of Cassation had taken a step in right direction by rejecting the extension of the sentence and ordering a retrial.