DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A court in Bahrain on Sunday sentenced three senior opposition leaders to life in prison, overturning previous acquittals on charges of spying for Qatar. International rights group called the sentence a “travesty of justice.”
A statement from the public prosecutor said the court had sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary general of the opposition al-Wefaq group; and Sheikh Hassan Sultan and Ali Alaswad, members of the same group, to life in prison for transferring confidential information to and receiving financial support from Qatar.
The prosecutor had appealed a court ruling that acquitted the three senior leaders last June in a rare victory for opposition figures who say they have been targeted for their political views.
Mr. Salman is already serving a four-year prison sentence on charges of inciting hatred and insulting the Interior Ministry, after he was arrested in 2015. Mr. Sultan and Mr. Alaswad were tried in absentia.
“This verdict is a travesty of justice that demonstrates the Bahraini authorities’ relentless and unlawful efforts to silence any form of dissent,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
“Sheikh Ali Salman is a prisoner of conscience who is being held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.”
Along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, Bahrain imposed a boycott on Qatar last year, accusing it of supporting terrorism and cozying up to Iran. Qatar denies the charges, saying they are an attempt to undermine its sovereignty.
Since the Bahrain authorities crushed street protests in 2011, demonstrators have clashed frequently with security forces, who have been targeted by bomb attacks. Manama says Qatar supports the unrest, accusations denied by Doha.
Mr. Alaswad, who has lived in London since 2011, has told Reuters that the public prosecutor used secret witnesses and a video from a Bahraini television channel that experts described as edited and incomplete.
Courts in Bahrain, where the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based, dissolved al-Wefaq and National Democratic Action Society (Waad) last year, accusing them of helping to foster violence and terrorism.
Bahrain has barred members of dissolved opposition groups from running in parliamentary elections to be held this month.
Al-Wefaq, which has strong links to the country’s Shiite Muslim majority, and Waad, which is seen as a secular movement, have both campaigned for social and political reforms in the country, which is ruled by a Sunni Muslim royal family.