Dubai: Bahraini Shia opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman will face trial later this month for “spying” for Qatar, the state prosecution said on Sunday.
Salman will be tried alongside two of his colleagues, Hassan Sultan and Ali Mehdi, from November 27 after they were charged earlier this month of espionage.
“The prosecution has referred the case in which Ali Salman, Hassan Sultan and Ali Mahdi are accused of spying for the state of Qatar to the High Criminal Court,” the state prosecution said in a tweet.
Salman has been behind bars since 2014 serving a nine-year sentence for allegedly inciting hatred.
On November 1 the state prosecution charged him with “spying on behalf of a foreign country … with the aim of carrying out subversive acts against Bahrain and harming its national interests”.
Salman was also charged with “revealing defence secrets to a foreign country and disseminating information that would harm Bahrain’s status and reputation”.
The investigation into purported links between Salman and Qatar was first launched in August, after a quartet of Arab countries — Bahrain included — accused their gas-rich neighbour of supporting terrorism and close relations with Shiite Iran.
State-run Bahrain Television aired a report which claimed that neighbouring Qatar was behind anti-government protests that have shaken the tiny kingdom for the past six years.
It alleged that Qatar’s former premier Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani contacted Salman — then head of Bahrain’s largest opposition group, Al-Wefaq — in 2011 and asked him to urge protesters to flood the streets and ramp up pressure on the state.
Al-Wefaq was the largest group in parliament before its lawmakers resigned en masse in protest at the crushing of Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations in 2011 calling for an elected government.
The Shia Muslim movement has called for Bahrain to become a constitutional monarchy.
The Shia majority in Bahrain, which has been ruled by the Al-Khalifa dynasty for more than two centuries, has long complained of marginalisation and the country has been rocked by sporadic unrest since 2011.
The start of the trial comes amid rising regional tension between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Bahrain, and rival Shiite powerhouse Iran.
Bahrain on Saturday accused Iran of being behind a pipeline fire that temporarily halted oil supplies from Saudi Arabia.
A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry on Sunday rejected the accusations.