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Bahraini Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Ali Salman acquitted of spying

But dissident will stay in jail anyway on another dodgy charge

PROMINENT Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Ali Salman was acquitted on spying charges alongside two colleagues yesterday, marking a rare victory for Bahraini activists amid a years-long clampdown on dissent.

Mr Salman led the now closed-down Al-Wefaq political party, the largest Shi’ite opposition group, and served as a central figure in Bahrain's 2011 democracy protests.

Despite his acquittal, he will remain in Jaw Prison until December serving four years on another dubious charge.

"Sheikh Ali Salman had been used as a pawn in Bahrain's game of power politics," said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

The cleric has long has been targeted by Bahrain's government, having been arrested in 1994 and tortured and detained for months without trial before being deported and forced to live in exile for over 15 years.

Prosecutors later gave notice of appeal, alleging "strong evidence" against the three men.

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