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Bahrain: The Authority Targets the Secretary General of the Largest Political Society, Again

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For the Second Time in Less than Two Months: The Prosecution Interrogates Al-Wefaq’s Secretary General on the Charge of Insulting the Authority

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemns the Authority’s continuous restriction of peaceful political work and the Authority’s targeting of opposition figures with the intent of deterring them from continuing the path of demanding freedom and democracy. The General Directorate of Criminal Investigations and Forensic Evidence summoned[1] the Secretary General of Al-Wefaq National Islamic opposition society Sheikh Ali Salman for an urgent interrogation, and this is the second time in less than two months that Salman is interrogated.

Mr. Abdullah Al-Shamlawi – Sheikh Ali Salman’s lawyer – mentioned on his official account on the social media network Twitter that the Criminal Investigation interrogated Sheikh Ali Salman on 28 Dec 2013 regarding his speech on Friday[2] 27 Dec 2013 and then he was sent to the Public Prosecution, and after having spent more than 6 hours in the Public Prosecution building the latter decided to release Salman while ensuring the place of residence[3] and banning him from travel[4], after charging him with “publicly inciting the hatred of a sect of people, and spreading false news knowing that it is likely to harm national security and public order, and consequently harm in fact happened’, according to the Public Prosecution’s statement.[5]

Sheikh Ali Salman had given a speech[6] in Imam Al-Sadiq mosque in Qufool at noon on Friday 27 December 2013, where he emphasized on the legitimacy of the demands of the Bahraini people and the necessity to continue peaceful work to obtain rights. However, the Ministry of Interior[7] had announced through its official account on Twitter summoning the Secretary General of Al-Wefaq National Society to question him about his speech and the sectarian language that constitutes an incitement against a sect of the society. The Ministry of Interior added that Salman’s speech contained an incitement against the ruling regime[8] which caused a breakdown in security and unlawful acts, which they allegedly state. The summoning of Sheikh Ali Salman comes two days after Bahrain’s ruler Hamad Al-Khalifa’s visit to the Ministry of Interior[9] and him thanking the security apparatuses for the work they’re carrying out.

The authority’s forces abused dozens of citizens who protested in front Sheikh Ali Salman’s house demanding his release on 28 Dec 2013. They arrested more than 7 citizens, 5 of them were released and two others will be presented to the Public Prosecution on 29 December 2013. Among the detainees was Al-Wefaq’s former MP – who had resigned – Abdul-majeed Al-Sebea who was arrested while attempting to prevent the Forces from suppressing the gathering in front of the house of Al-Wefaq’s Secretary General. The Forces also suppressed a number of peaceful demonstrations that went out in a number of villages and cities of Bahrain demanding the release of Salman, and to stop targeting the opposition leaders. In his first statement after his release, Sheikh Ali Salman said[10] that the Authority is monitoring his phone and know that he was intending to travel in two weeks on a tour to visit some of the European countries to inform them about the reality of what is occurring in Bahrain.

A group of regime forces coming forward to suppress the peaceful gathering in front of Salman’s house

Suppressing the protestors in front of Sheikh Ali Salman’s house

This is not the first time that Sheikh Ali Salman is targeted; he had been summoned for interrogation several times, the last of these times was on 3 November 2013 where he was also charged with “insulting a governmental body” on the background of Al-Wefaq National Society holding an art exhibition in its center to display the peaceful revolution in Bahrain and portray the Ministry of Interior’s violations[11]. Before that, Sheikh Ali Salman was summoned in the military court during the state emergency period. Salman’s arrest falls within the context of the suppressive campaign led by the Authority against the peaceful political opposition. The security apparatuses had arrested the political assistant of the Secretary General of Al-Wefaq’s National Society Mr. Khalil Al-Marzooq[12] for a month, and interrogated him on a charge within the Terrorism Law, and then released him later while continuing to look into the case. There are still 13 opposition figures detained since March 2013 in the case known as “Coalition for the Republic”; they have been sentenced to prison to periods that vary between life sentences and 5 years imprisonment, after accusing them of seeking to overthrow the regime by force, among them is the former president of the BCHR Abdul-hadi Al-Khawaja. Human Rights Watch indicated in a report[13] that was published at an earlier time the great discrepancy in the measures taken against the leaders and the clear corruption in the judicial body. The Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs is waging an open war against the civil society institutions, especially the opposition political societies. It had recently dissolved the opposition Islamic Action Society[14] (Amal) to limit its political activity. The Court[15] is currently looking into a lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Justice against the Olamaa Islamic Council, and the final decision will be made on 29 January 2014.

Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafdha– Vice-president of the BCHR – said that the judicial body, including the Public Prosecution, are tools used by the Authority to suppress the opposition and to punish them, while the security apparatuses step up to prosecute the Shiite preachers and opposition, it turns a blind eye to some of the preachers who openly speak about cursing[16] the largest component of the society and they call for eliminating[17] and killing it[18]. Al-Muhafdha added, “The BCHR had previously released a report that addresses the biasness of the judicial bodies and public prosecution[19] and its involvement with the Criminal Investigation in forcing detainees to confess to fabricated and malicious charges. Al-Muhafdha considered that targeting the opposition is a clear violation of Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[20] related to freedom of establishing societies and peaceful gatherings, as well as Article 19[21] of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights concerned with maintaining freedom of opinion and expression.

Based on the above, the BCHR calls on the US, UK, UN and all the close allies of the Authority and relevant international organizations to:

  • Put pressure on the Authority in Bahrain to take into consideration and maintain human rights especially those related to freedom of expression and peaceful political work;
  • Trial Bahrain internationally for its continuous and repetitive violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which it had endorsed;

It also calls on the Authority in Bahrain to:

  • Drop all charges against Sheikh Ali Salman the Secretary General of Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society;
  • Immediately release all the prisoners of conscience especially the opposition leaders;
  • Stop targeting and prosecuting the opposition and the human rights activists due to their peaceful demand activity;
  • Hold accountable and question all those involved in the violations and torture whether by supervision and / or order, especially the higher ranking ones;
  • Drop all charges related to freedom of expression in the ongoing trials.
 
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