Bahrain's top court on Monday reduced the jail sentence of government opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, who has been in prison since 2014.
The country's court of cassation reduced Salman's sentence from nine to four years, a judicial source said on condition of anonymity.
“Reducing Sheikh Ali Salman’s sentence does not make this any less of an attack on freedom of expression," Lynn Maalouf, research director at Amnesty International’s Beirut, said in response to the news.
"Peacefully criticising the government or demanding reform is not a crime – and should not be a punishable offence under any circumstances.
"Sheikh Ali Salman is one of a string of victims of Bahrain’s repressive clampdown on peaceful dissent. Instead of placing him behind bars for four years the Bahraini authorities should order his immediate and unconditional release and end their relentless persecution of peaceful critics and opposition leaders once and for all,” Maalouf added.
Bahrain had found the 51-year-old guilty of "inciting hatred and insulting the state."
|Read more: Jailing Bahrain opposition leader 'an affront'|
Salman has for long been an opposition to the Bahraini state. He was one of the main figures that instigated the Bahraini uprising in the 1990s, calling for political reforms. After he was arrested in 1994, his loyalists sparked mass protests in solidarity. He was then deported a year later.
Upon returning to Bahrain in 2001 Salman began cementing his political career and became a Bahraini MP for Shia Islamist al-Wefaq party between the years of 2006-2010. The party is known for being the largest opposition party in Bahrain.
After Shia-led protests began in Bahrain in 2011, the Bahraini state launched a crackdown on opposition factions and figureheads. Salman was arrested in December 2014, and was then was sentenced to prison for four years in July 2015 after being convicted of “inciting hatred … inciting non-compliance with the law and insulting public institutions,” according to the Bahraini higher criminal court.
In July last year, Salman’s sentence was bolstered from four years to nine years.
Bahrain has been subject to instability since the mass protests in 2011 led by Shia majority protestors demanding reforms and a bigger role in government. That uprising was put down with military help from Saudi Arabia.
Bahrain says it has made significant political reforms and increased oversight of security forces. Opponents deny this and say abuses continue.
Agencies contributed to this report