A court in the Gulf Arab nation of Bahrain has sentenced the country's leading Shiite opposition figure to four years in prison after he was convicted of insulting the Interior Ministry, which oversees police, inciting others to break the law and inciting hatred against naturalized Sunni citizens.

However, the higher criminal court found Sheikh Ali Salman, who is the secretary general of the al-Wefaq political opposition group, not guilty of a fourth charge of inciting a change of government by force, which carried a potential life sentence.

The charges against Salman stem from speeches he made between 2012 and 2014. His arrest in December sparked clashes between protesters and police.

His defense lawyer, Abdullah al-Shamlawi says that Salman, 59, can appeal Tuesday's verdict.