Bahrain: Jailing opposition leader an affront to freedom of expression
The verdict against Sheikh Ali Salman today, sentencing him to four years in prison for inciting disobedience and hatred, demonstrates the Bahraini authorities’ consistent disregard for the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.
“Today’s verdict is shocking. It is yet another clear example of Bahrain’s flagrant disregard for its international obligations. Sheikh Ali Salman has been sentenced solely for peacefully expressing his opinion,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.
“For a country that has expressed outrage at criticism of its human rights records, Bahrain has not hesitated to suppress political opposition and muzzle critical voices at every opportunity. The authorities must release Sheikh Ali Salman immediately and unconditionally, and ensure his conviction is quashed.”
Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary General of the main opposition political party Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, was arrested on 28 December 2014, two days after he delivered a speech calling for serious political reform and accountability after his re-election as party leader.
He stood trial on charges of “incitement to promote the change of the political system by force, threats and other illegal means”; “public incitement to loathing and contempt of a sect of people which will result in disrupting public disorder”; “publicly inciting others to disobey the law” and “publicly insulting the Interior Ministry”.
Amnesty International considers Sheikh Ali Salman to be a prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully expressing his views.
His detention and prosecution violate Bahrain’s obligation to respect the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which it is a state party.
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