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Bahrain Opposition Leader Sentenced

July 7, 1999

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ A Bahraini security court convicted a leading Shiite Muslim opposition leader today of spying and inciting unrest against the ruling family, sentencing him to 10 years in jail, his lawyers said.

The three-judge panel also ordered Sheik Abdul-Ameer al-Jamri, 62, to pay a $1.5 million dollar fine, said attorney Abdul-Shaheed Khalaf.

Al-Jamri was widely expected to be released as part of a wider amnesty of political prisoners and common criminals by Bahrain’s ruler Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

``The court decision came as a shock,″ Khalaf said.

The cleric, who was detained in January 1996, was also convicted of ignoring government warnings and stepping up a campaign for political reforms. Bahraini laws allow up to three years of detention without trial.

Al-Jamri’s wife, Zahra Attiyah, and three of his four children attended today’s court session in Jaw, 20 miles south of the capital, Manama. Khalaf said it lasted less than five minutes.

``God is with him,″ Attiyah said. ``I will wait and be patient, and I do have faith in God that things will be better.″

Al-Jamri’s sentence will include the 3 1/2 years he has spent in jail awaiting trial, his lawyers said. However, they said his sentence could be extended if he is unable to pay the fine. It is not clear for how long.

Attiyah said the family cannot afford to pay the fine.

Al-Jamri’s trial, by the State Security Court, was closed to the media. The court was set up in March 1996 to deal solely with Shiite unrest. At least 40 people have been killed in bombings and arson attacks blamed on Shiites, members of the second-largest sect of Islam.

Shiites are the majority among Bahrain’s 500,000 citizens, but the ruling family belongs to the mainstream Sunni sect, the biggest single sect in Islam.