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Prominent Bahrain opposition leader goes on trial

[JURIST] The Bahrain Ministry of Justice [official website, in Arabic] on Wednesday commenced the trial of prominent Shiite leader Sheikh Ali Salman for his role in promoting an overthrow of the current Bahrain political system. The current Al-Wefaq Islamic Society [GU Berkley Center backgrounder] secretary general faces charges [JURIST report] of inciting a change of government by force, inciting hatred of a segment of society, inciting others to break the law and insulting the Interior Ministry. The charges against Salman are related to numerous speeches he has made in opposition to the government since 2012. Upon appearing for trial, Salman denied all charges [Reuters report]. If convicted, Salman could face up to 10 years in prison.

Political tensions remain high in Bahrain following protests that began in 2011. In July Salman was charged over meeting with a US diplomat [JURIST report]. In April a Bahrain court sentenced [JURIST report] eight activists to life in prison for killing a policeman and participating in anti-regime protests the previous August. Also last spring a Bahrain court sentenced [JURIST report] 13 citizens to life in prison and one man to 10 years in prison for attempting to kill a police officer and participating in an illegal protest. In March Bahrain's Fourth High Criminal Court convicted 11 defendants [JURIST report] of possessing weapons, ammunition and explosives and of manufacturing bombs for terror purposes, which resulted in 15-year prison sentences for the accused and significant fines. In late 2013 a judge in Bahrain rejected [JURIST report] a request from human rights activist Nabeel Rajab to approve his conditional early release, for which Rajab was eligible under Bahraini law. US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki commented that the US continues to urge Bahrain to permit all sectors of society to peacefully voice their political views.

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