Bahraini opposition leader due in court
The trial of prominent Bahraini opposition leader, Ibrahim Sharif, is set to continue in Manama on Thursday despite an outcry by rights groups who have described Sharif's arrest as "unjust" and called for his immediate release.
Ibrahim Sharif, a Sunni Muslim who headed the secular National Democratic Action Society, was arrested by Bahraini authorities on 10 July after delivering a public speech and charged with "promoting political change through forceful means".
His arrest came only weeks after he completed four years of a five-year prison sentence for taking part in Shia-led anti-government demonstrations that erupted as part of the Arab Spring in 2011.
During Sharif's speech at the gathering to commemorate the death of Hussam al-Haddad, a 16-year-old boy shot dead by riot police in 2012 during an anti-government protest, the opposition leader spoke of the need for change in Bahrain and the opposition's commitment to non-violence.
However, Bahraini authorities accused Sharif of "inciting hatred" and "encouraging the overthrow of the government," which could land him a ten-year prison sentence.
At the first hearing of his trial held on 24 August, Sharif rejected all the charges against him, which he described as being based on "assumptions" not facts.
His trial is set to continue on Thursday when the Higher Criminal Court is scheduled to hear testimony from prosecution witnesses.
Human Rights Watch [HRW] has objected to the "unjust" arrest of Sharif and other Bahraini opposition figures such as Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the opposition al-Wefaq Party, and called for their immediate release.
In a statement released on 7 October, days before Sharif's last hearing, HRW said: "The charges against him (Sharif) are wholly without foundation and violate international standards on freedom of expression".
Amnesty International described the charges against Ibrahim Sharif as "absurd" and "ludicrous".
According to Amnesty International, the trial "demonstrates the authorities' dogged determination to quash dissent and curtail freedom of expression in the country".
"The Bahraini authorities are clearly punishing him (Sharif) merely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression," said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty's Acting Middle East and North Africa Director.
The Minor Criminal Court in Manama sentenced Majeed Milad, a senior member of the opposition Wefaq Party to two years in prion for "incitement to public disobedience of the law" on Wednesday, according to the Bahraini News Agency [BNA].
Milad was arrested in June after making a public speech, which authorities say encouraged people to break the law. State prosecutor Ahmed al-Qurashi said Milad had the right to appeal his sentence.
Bahrain's opposition is demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.