Acquittal in Qatar spy case overturned

Manama: Bahrain’s High Court of Appeals on Sunday sentenced three defendants to life in prison in Qatar espionage case.

The case was reviewed after the public prosecutor in June challenged the High Criminal Court verdict that acquitted anti-government activists Ali Salman Ali Ahmad, secretary general of the opposition Al Wefaq group, Hassan Ali Juma Sultan and Ali Mahdi Ali Al Aswad (members of the same group) in the case.

The three defendants were tried on charges of spying for Qatar with the aim of carrying out subversive acts against Bahrain, and undermining its political and economic status and its national interests in order to topple the government.

Other charges include passing on defence secrets to a foreign country, accepting money from a foreign country in exchange for supplying military secrets and information related to the internal situation in the country, and broadcasting news and malicious rumours abroad to weaken financial trust in the kingdom and undermine its status.

The court in June dropped the charges, prompting Advocate General Osama Al Oufi to appeal it.

He argued that although the public prosecution presented strong evidence that implicated the three defendants in deals with Qatari officials to fuel acts of sabotage and violence in the country during the dramatic events that unfolded in Bahrain in February and March 2011, the court did not assess them properly.

Evidence presented by the prosecution included records of tasks assigned by Qatari officials to the defendants that were substantiated by testimonies from witnesses, the advocate general said.

He added that the defendants and their lawyers could not refute the compelling evidence the prosecution had submitted.

Under Bahrain’s laws, the prosecution and the defendants can appeal a ruling at the Court of Appeals in the first stage and at the Cassation Court, the country’s highest court, in the second stage.

Only Ali Salman is in custody, serving a jail sentence in another case since 2014. The other two were tried in absentia.

Giving the reasons for its verdict, the High Court of Appeals said that its ruling was based on the multiple evidence presented by the public prosecution, which incriminated the suspects and which were in line with Qatar’s attitudes towards Bahrain and its blatant interference in its domestic affairs in order to harm the kingdom’s higher interests and undermine its regime.

The court added that in order to achieve its aims, Qatar recruited elements who were opposed to Bahrain and its government and used them both to carry out direct actions to weaken the country.

The court said that the Qatari government was implicated in running the espionage operation and that then Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jassem, Advisor to Qatar’s former emir, Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, director of Al Jazeera TV channel Hamad Bin Thamer Al Thani and editor of London-based Al Alem magazine Saeed Al Shihabi were involved.

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