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Qatar's plot to overthrow Bahrain's government ‘began way back in 1995’

Bahrain News
Fri, 02 Mar 2018
By Noor Zahra

QATAR began plotting to overthrow Bahrain’s government way back in 1995, according to testimony presented in court in the trial of an opposition leader.

Officials from the neighbouring Gulf country allegedly met key members of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society years before unrest broke out in Bahrain in 2011.

The information was presented during the trial of former secretary general of the now-dissolved society Ali Salman, at the High Criminal Court yesterday.

The leading judge was reading out the testimony of one of the witnesses who is under a protection programme and who previously gave evidence to a judge at an undisclosed location.

Ali Salman is on trial, along with two former Al Wefaq MPs Hassan Ali Sultan and Ali Al Aswad, accused of sharing state secrets with Qatar, including information about GCC forces in Bahrain.

He was brought to court from Jaw Prison and he sat behind a glass partition in prison uniform.

“Prosecution witness A said that the defendant (Ali Salman) travelled to London in 1995 and met Shaikh Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani, the chairman of the board of Al Jazeera Media Network,” said the leading judge.

“He (Mr Salman) then built strong relations with the Qatari officials who targeted Bahrain to overthrow the regime and subvert security especially during the unrest in 2011.

“The defendants received 50,000 pounds from them (the Qataris).

“They (defendants) communicated with their counterparts from Qatar and Lebanon.

“The Qatari officials’ efforts aimed to weaken Bahrain and especially during the unrest in 2011.

“Several of the defendants met (the then) Qatari Prime Minister Shaikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani and Shaikh Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani in Lebanon.

“Mr Sultan also spoke to Qatari adviser Hamad bin Khalifa Al Attiya and Ali Salman gave information about GCC Peninsula Shield forces.”

The testimony was read out before an audio recording of Mr Salman and the former Qatari prime minister was played in court.

Video footage of the same conversation was previously aired on Bahrain TV and was shown in court at a previous hearing.

The audio footage was presented by prosecutors in court yesterday after defence lawyers requested for the full phone conversation to be presented in court.

The trial has been adjourned until Thursday for prosecutors to submit their final arguments.

The case is connected to phone conversations dating back to 2011 between senior members of Al Wefaq – which was dissolved in 2016 for inciting terrorism and promoting a coup – and Qatari officials.

Investigations carried out by the police showed Mr Salman ordering the two former Al Wefaq MPs to conspire with Qatari and Hizbollah officials.

Mr Salman is already serving a four-year jail sentence at Jaw Prison, after being convicted in 2014 of inciting others to break the law and spreading sectarianism.

Meanwhile, Mr Sultan and Mr Al Aswad once again failed to attend the hearing and are being tried in absentia.

Police previously told the court that both men were living abroad.

All three defendants are accused of receiving money in exchange for revealing state and military secrets, as well as spreading false news.

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