Bahrain charges opposition chief with `regime overthrow` bid

Prosecutors on Monday charged Bahrain`s Shiite opposition chief with attempting to overthrow the regime and sent him to trial despite international calls for his release.

AFP| Last Updated: Jan 19, 2015, 23:47 PM IST

Dubai: Prosecutors on Monday charged Bahrain`s Shiite opposition chief with attempting to overthrow the regime and sent him to trial despite international calls for his release.

Sheikh Ali Salman will stand trial from January 28 on charges of "promoting the overthrow and change of the political regime by force," prosecutor general Nayef Mahmud said in a statement.

Salman, head of the influential Al-Wefaq bloc, has been in custody since December 28 and his detention has sparked near-daily protests across the Shiite-majority but Sunni-ruled kingdom.

Salman was also charged with inciting disobedience and inciting hatred against a part of the population in public statements.

The prosecutor said Salman had confessed under questioning to making the statements in speeches in which he allegedly referred to meeting with groups abroad who offered to back an armed uprising.

Iran has been accused of interfering in Bahrain since its Sunni government crushed protests led by Al-Wefaq in 2011 seeking a constitutional monarchy.

Salman was given "all legal guarantees" such as assistance from a team of lawyers and family visits during his questioning, Mahmud said.

Salman`s arrest sparked condemnation from Iran, the United States and international rights groups.

Human Rights Watch on Sunday urged Bahrain`s Western allies to press the kingdom to release detained activists including Salman.

The group had said that authorities had failed to release evidence against Salman, calling for his immediate release.

The United States has expressed concern over Salman`s detention, warning it could inflame persistent violence that has gripped the kingdom, home to its Fifth Fleet, since 2011.

At least 89 people have been killed in clashes with security forces since 2011. Hundreds have also been arrested and put on trial, human rights groups say.