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Lawyer says Bahrain Shiite leader formally charged by prosecutor; could face life imprisonment

  • A masked Bahraini anti-government protester holds a picture of jailed Shiite cleric Sheik Ali Salman head of the opposition al-Wefaq political association, as riot police fire tear gas canisters during clashes in Bilad Al Qadeem, Bahrain, a suburb of Manama, Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015. Daily clashes between police and protesters have intensified in the week since Salman, 49, was arrested on accusations including  inciting violence in the Gulf island kingdom. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

    A masked Bahraini anti-government protester holds a picture of jailed Shiite cleric Sheik Ali Salman head of the opposition al-Wefaq political association, as riot police fire tear gas canisters during clashes in Bilad Al Qadeem, Bahrain, a suburb of Manama, Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015. Daily clashes between police and protesters have intensified in the week since Salman, 49, was arrested on accusations including inciting violence in the Gulf island kingdom. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)  (The Associated Press)

  • Bahraini anti-government protesters holding a national flag take cover from tear gas fired by riot police during clashes in Bilad Al Qadeem, Bahrain, a suburb of Manama, Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015. Daily clashes between police and protesters have intensified in the week since Sheik Ali Salman, 49, head of the opposition al-Wefaq political association, was arrested on accusations including inciting violence in the Gulf island kingdom. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

    Bahraini anti-government protesters holding a national flag take cover from tear gas fired by riot police during clashes in Bilad Al Qadeem, Bahrain, a suburb of Manama, Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015. Daily clashes between police and protesters have intensified in the week since Sheik Ali Salman, 49, head of the opposition al-Wefaq political association, was arrested on accusations including inciting violence in the Gulf island kingdom. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)  (The Associated Press)

The defense lawyer of one of Bahrain's most prominent Shiite opposition leaders says prosecutors formally have charged Sheikh Ali Salman with four charges that carry sentences ranging from three years to life in prison.

Abdulla al-Shamlawi told The Associated Press that Salman was charged late Sunday by the Bahrain's Public Prosecution with inciting a change of government by force, inciting hatred of a segment of society, inciting others to break the law and insulting the Interior Ministry.

The charges allegedly refer to speeches Salman made between 2012 and now. The country's Shiite majority has led protests demanding political reform from the Sunni-led monarchy since February 2011.

Salman, who is secretary general of the al-Wefaq group, has been under arrest for a week, sparking clashes between protesters and police.