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U.S., Iran Condemn Bahrain's Imprisonment Of Shi'ite Opposition Leader

Bahraini protesters hold placard portraying Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Shiite opposition movement Al-Wefaq, during a demonstration against his arrest on June 16, 2015

The United States has voiced concern over Bahrain's sentencing of the head of the country's Shi'ite opposition movement to life in prison, a move which was also condemned by Iran.

"The United States is concerned by the verdict sentencing Ali Salman to life in prison," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said on November 8.

Washington will not seek to impose sanctions over the matter, he said, but it will continue to raise concerns when human rights issues arise in the Persian Gulf ally.

Bahrain, an island state across the Gulf from Iran, is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

"The United States will continue to engage regularly with the government of Bahrain on a range of shared interests, including the importance of safeguarding fundamental freedoms and human rights," Palladino said.

Bahrain on November 4 sentenced Salman, who headed the now-banned Al-Wefaq movement, for allegedly spying on behalf of rival Gulf state Qatar.

Bahrain has been ruled for more than two centuries by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty, but has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011 among its Shi'ite majority population.

During the so-called Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, Bahrain's security forces crushed the protests, which were demanding creation of a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

Bahrain provides vital facilities not only for the U.S. Navy but for other Western military forces which patrol the oil-rich Gulf region. It houses a permanent British military base.

Despite human rights abuses documented among U.S. allies in the Gulf region, U.S. President Donald Trump has argued against restricting arms sales, saying they provide the United States with jobs and security benefits.

The Trump administration lifted restrictions on arms sales to Bahrain that former President Barack Obama imposed on human rights grounds.

Based on reporting by AFP