12 November 2015 – Bahrain’s appeals court is to convene for opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman’s trial today, 12 November, in a case marked with unfair practices.
The General-Secretary of Al Wefaq, the largest political society in Bahrain, is appealing the four-year prison sentence handed down in June this year for inciting public disobedience and insulting the government.
In the past weeks, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) released a decision which rules Sheikh Ali Salman’s imprisonment as arbitrary. It found that the state’s deprivation of his liberty is in contravention of seven human rights, including the right not to be subject to arbitrary arrest. According to the WGAD, Sheikh Salman was not tried under the presumption of innocence or treated equally before the law. The courts limited his right to free speech, political participation and free association and assembly.
The U.S. State Department called for his charges to be dropped, stating: “No one, anywhere, should be prosecuted or imprisoned for engaging in peaceful expression or assembly.”
The European External Action Service said that the sentence “runs counter” to the promotion of “national reconciliation.” The European Parliament also called for his immediate release, along with other prisoners of conscience.
The United Kingdom has called for due process to be followed.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, BIRD: “This is not a matter of due process because there is no due process. This has been proven by the WGAD’s ruling and cannot be made more clear. The UK and EU must call for his immediate release. To do anything less is to slap Bahraini government on the wrist and allow it to continue with its arbitrary ways.
Sheikh Salman is the leader of Al Wefaq, the leading opposition society in Bahrain. He was arrested in December 2014 in connection to political speeches he has made. Human Rights Watch analysed his speeches and found nothing to support the charges. He is not the only member of the opposition facing unfair trial. Ebrahim Sharif, former leader of the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad) is also undergoing trial for a speech delivered in July.
Amnesty International has called Sheikh Salman’s trial “shocking”, while Human Rights Watch described it as “grossly unfair.” Al Wefaq say that between his 16 June sentencing, and first appeal hearing in October, Sheikh Salman was only been allowed a single two-hour meeting with his lawyers. During court, is lawyers were denied the right to present their arguments and evidence.
Husain Abdulla, Executive Director, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain: “The body of evidence is against the Government of Bahrain, not Sheikh Ali. The only fair response to the silencing of political opposition, trumped up trials and arbitrary detention is universal condemnation.”
From the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights we call for all charges to be dropped against Sheikh Salman, who was arbitrarily arrested by Bahraini authorities, contravening international and human rights law.