Bahrain: Ebrahim Sharif pays the price for a new freedom of speech charge

On 13 March 2019, the former General Secretary of the secular socialist National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), Ebrahim Sharif, was sentenced by Bahrain’s Lower Criminal Court to six-month imprisonment and a fine for a total amount of 500 BD for tweeting criticism over Sudan’s president Omar Albashir. Mr. Albashir is the leader of a 30-year dictatorship that still affects the rather stable political asset in Sudan.

The opposition party Wa’ad was dissolved this year as part of the governmental systemic repression against civil society in the Kingdom. Ebrahim was detained in Bahrain’s Jau Prison for his role in the pro-democracy protests in late 2011. His current sentence was issued under Article 215 of the Bahraini Penal Code, under which anyone can be charged for up to two years for “publicly insulting a foreign country or on international organization based in the State of Bahrain or its president or representative.” Prosecutions require the direct approval of the Minister of Justice or from a member of the royal family. Mr. Sharif’s intentions are to appeal and pay bail in order to move freely while his appeal is pending.

The incriminated tweet was published in late December with a picture of al-Bashir clearly stating: “Get out of here, man.. 30 years ago, Omar al-Bashir came on the back of a tank claiming ‘salvation’. During his reign, civil wars have piled up, the South seceded, and he has impoverished, starved and degraded the kind and noble Sudanese people. The time has come for freedom for the Sudanese and the departure of the dictatorial president. #Cities_of_Sudan_Are_Rising_Up.” In-between 2009 and 2010, Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court on multiple counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) denounces the strict and irrational Bahraini repression. We are deeply saddened for the recent news and we stand close to Ebrahim Sharif and to all those activists, politicians and defenders who struggle to express their voices and opinions. We call upon the Bahraini government to immediately release Mr. Sharif and all the political activists and human rights defenders detained in the country.

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