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Sheikh Salman says jail term extension won’t discourage Bahrainis

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Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of Bahrain’s opposition movement, says the Al Khalifah regime’s move to extend his jail term will not discourage Bahrainis from demanding their rights.

“These sentences will not deter us from demanding our rights and will only increase our determination,” said the secretary general of the country’s main opposition party, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, in a statement released from prison on Wednesday.

He went on to stress that the people of Bahrain have a legitimate right to a democratic government.

A Bahraini man holds a placard bearing the portrait of Sheikh Ali Salman during a protest in Zinj on May 29, 2016. (AFP)

Sheikh Salman was originally sentenced on June 16, 2015 to four years in prison after a trial which Amnesty International described as “unfair”.

The Bahrain tribunal charged him with “publicly insulting the Interior Ministry” and “publicly inciting others to disobey the law” in his speeches.

His appeal had been pending for eight months, but the Supreme Court of Appeal increased Salman’s prison sentence on charges of inciting violence and calling for anti-regime demonstrations to nine years from the original four on Monday.

Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, has strongly denounced Manama’s decision.

Bahraini protesters hold up placards depicting portraits of Sheikh Ali Salman during a protest in Sitra on January 29, 2016. (AFP)

“The sentencing of Sheikh Ali Salman seems to confirm a worrying trend of political repression further shrinking the space for any form of dissent in Bahrain today,” Kaye said, adding, “The arbitrary sentencing of such a prominent political leader to nine years of detention inevitably has a strong chilling effect for the entire society.”

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi-Ansari also slammed Bahrain’s move, saying such measures against moderate political leaders will never help solve the current issues in Bahrain.

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