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Bahrain jails leading opposition figure

Dubai: A Bahraini court today jailed a member of the main opposition Al-Wefaq bloc for two years for “inciting non-compliance with the law”, the Shiite grouping and authorities said.

Majeed Milad, a member of Al-Wefaq’s delegation which took part in a “national dialogue” that failed despite several rounds of negotiations, was handed a two-year sentence for making “a speech… Demanding political reform”, the bloc said.

Bahraini authorities crushed Shiite-led protests a month after they erupted on February 14, 2011.

The gap has since been growing between the Sunni minority authorities and their opponents, mainly from the Gulf state’s Shiite majority.

In a statement received by AFP, Bahrain’s public prosecutor Ahmed al-Qorashi said “the lower criminal court today sentenced an individual to two years in prison on charges of inciting non-compliance with the law”.

“The defendant was questioned in the presence of his lawyers and provided with the opportunity to meet his legal team throughout,” said Qorashi without naming Milad, who can appeal the ruling.

But Al-Wefaq’s statement described Milad’s trial as “evidence … Of the complete absence of any level of freedom of speech and expression” in Bahrain.

The bloc, whose leader Sheikh Ali Salman was himself jailed in June for four years on charges of inciting disobedience and hatred, urged the international community to take a “clear stance to end the repression of free expression in Bahrain”.

Tiny but strategic Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet and on October 31, construction work began in the kingdom on Britain’s first permanent military base in the Middle East since 1971.