Bahrain’s main opposition leader has been charged with attempting to overthrow the government of the western-backed Gulf state – a significant escalation in a crackdown on dissent.

Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the al-Wefaq movement, is to stand trial at the end of the month on charges of “promoting the overthrow and change of the political regime by force”, it was announced in Manama on Monday.

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The State Department has expressed deep concern over the detention of the Bahraini opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, warning the arrest could lead to more tensions in the island kingdom.

Sheikh Salman, head of the al-Wefaq Islamic Society, was arrested on Sunday after leading a protest rally against elections in November which his party boycotted. He was remanded in custody for a further week on Tuesday.

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