DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A Shiite cleric who was a central figure in Bahrain’s 2011 Arab Spring protests was sentenced on Sunday, along with two other senior opposition figures, to life in prison, overturning previous acquittals on charges of spying for Qatar.
Amnesty International called the sentence a “travesty of justice.”
The public prosecutor said the court had sentenced the cleric, Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary general of the opposition al-Wefaq group; and Sheikh Hassan Sultan and Ali Alaswad, members of the same group, for transferring confidential information to and receiving financial support from Qatar, according to Reuters.
The prosecutor had appealed a court ruling that acquitted the three 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, 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.”
The verdict was issued just weeks before parliamentary elections are set to take place without al-Wefaq, which was the tiny Gulf nation’s largest Shiite opposition bloc.
Courts in Bahrain, where the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based, dissolved al-Wefaq and National Democratic Action Society (Waad) in 2016 as part of a crackdown on dissent in the kingdom, which has a Shiite majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy.
The groups were accused of helping to foster violence and terrorism. 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, The Associated Press said.
The three faced charges of disclosing sensitive information to Qatar that could harm Bahrain’s security in exchange for financial compensation. The state-run news agency said prosecutors had presented recorded phone conversations as evidence.
Last year, Bahrain state television broadcast the recorded calls between Mr. Salman and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani, then Qatar’s prime minister, during the 2011 protests.
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.
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. Salman, who is in his early 50s, has long been targeted by Bahrain’s government. In 1994, he was arrested, allegedly tortured and detained for months without trial before being deported and forced to live in exile for more than 15 years, according to the United Nations.
He is currently serving out a four-year sentence on charges he insulted the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police; incited others to break the law; and incited hatred against naturalized Sunni citizens, many of whom serve in Bahrain’s security forces.
Brian Dooley, a senior adviser at Human Rights First, said Sunday’s ruling “confirms there is now no tolerance for any dissent in Bahrain,” according to The A.P.