Ibrahim Sharif, chief of the Waed secular group, sits at his home in the village of Tubli, south of Manama, on June 20, 2015
Ibrahim Sharif, chief of the Waed secular group, sits at his home in the village of Tubli, south of Manama, on June 20, 2015 © Mohammed al-Shaikh - AFP/File
Ibrahim Sharif, chief of the Waed secular group, sits at his home in the village of Tubli, south of Manama, on June 20, 2015
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AFP
Last updated: August 24, 2015

Bahrain Sunni activist pleads not guilty as trial opens

A prominent Sunni opposition leader in Bahrain pleaded not guilty Monday at the opening of his new trial for "promoting political change through forceful means", judicial sources in Manama said.

Addressing the Higher Criminal Court, Ibrahim Sharif said the charges against him were based on "assumptions" and not facts.

Sharif, who headed the secular Waed party, was freed on June 19 after spending four years in jail over his involvement in 2011 Shiite-led anti-government protests.

But he was re-arrested three weeks later for "violating the law".

The activist is accused of promoting "violent disorder" in a "direct attempt to undermine stability in the kingdom and overthrow the regime", in addition to other charges.

The next hearing will take place on October 12.

Sharif played a prominent role in the month-long protests in 2011 and was later among a group of 20 activists tried for plotting to overthrow the Sunni rulers of Shiite-majority Bahrain.

Opposition sources say the activist was taken back to prison after he criticised the government during a ceremony for a victim of the unrest that has rocked the kingdom.

Also on Monday, the main Shiite opposition bloc, Al-Wefaq, slammed accusations by authorities that its member, former lawmaker Sheikh Isa Hasan, is "financing terrorism."

Bahraini authorities said in a statement on the official BNA news agency that the ex-MP was arrested on August 18 after returning from Iran -- which the kingdom accuses of fuelling unrest on its soil.

He was being held "on charges related to financing terrorism among terrorist fugitives and others who are associated in terrorist acts," the interior ministry said.

His name was linked to several "terrorist cases," including a blast that killed two policemen last month, it said, adding that he will be referred to public prosecution.

Al-Wefaq insisted that "Isa is innocent of these accusations," saying the bloc's "leaders and members adhere to its nonviolent methodology."

The opposition in Bahrain, which is home to the US Fifth Fleet, is pressing for a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

At least 89 people have been killed in clashes with security forces since 2011, while hundreds have been arrested and put on trial, rights groups say.

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