**Update 15 October 2018 – Today, the High Court of Appeals announced they are scheduled to issue a ruling on the Public Prosecution’s appeal of Sheikh Ali Salman’s ‘not guilty’ verdict on 4 November 2018. If the verdict is upheld, Sheikh Ali Salman is expected to be released in December 2018.
**Update 26 September 2018 – Today, the trial date for the Public Prosecution’s appeal of Sheikh Ali Salman’s ‘not guilty’ verdict has been postponed to 15 October 2018.
**Update 5 September 2018 – Today, the trial date for the Public Prosecution’s appeal of Sheikh Ali Salman’s ‘not guilty’ verdict has been postponed to 26 September 2018.
**Update 27 June 2018 – Today, the appeal by Bahrain’s Public Prosecution of Sheikh Ali Salman’s recent verdict has been granted a trial date of 5 September 2018.
**Update 21 June 2018 – Today, Bahrain’s High Criminal Court found Sheikh Ali Salman innocent of politically motivated charges related to espionage, but the Public Prosecution Office has stated it will immediately appeal the verdict. ADHRB welcomes the court’s decision to acquit Sheikh Ali Salman following a drawn-out trial marred by due process violations, yet remains concerned that the Public Prosecution will continue to harass the political leader on these baseless charges. We call for his immediate release from custody.
18 June 2018 – This Thursday, 21 June 2018, imprisoned opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman is expected to receive the final verdict in his trial relating to politically motivated charges of espionage. The Pubic Prosecution Office has called on the High Criminal Court to hand down the maximum sentence possible, which in this case would be the death penalty. Sheikh Salman’s trial is part of a wider initiative by the Bahraini government to silence political opposition ahead of the upcoming elections this fall. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) condemn to the utmost degree the government’s prosecution of Sheikh Ali Salman on arbitrary charges and call for the government to immediately and unconditionally release him.
Sheikh Salman was originally arrested in December 2014 on charges of “inciting disobedience and hatred in the kingdom” for giving speeches as Secretary-General of the now dissolved Al-Wefaq opposition society, and he was ultimately sentenced to four years in prison. Towards the end of his four-year sentence, in November 2017, Sheikh Salman was charged again, this time for “conspiring with Qatar” during the peaceful protest movement in 2011. The charges stem from an open and documented mediation attempt that was originally encouraged by the United States, with the Bahraini government’s knowledge.
The case of Sheikh Ali Salman is just one of many that shows the Bahraini government’s power to undermine and suppress the opposition, and the extent it will go to do so. It is deeply alarming that the government is not only prosecuting one of the kingdom’s most prominent opposition leaders prior to elections, but also seeking his possible execution over baseless allegations. With the elections approaching for Bahrain’s lower house of parliament, Sheikh Salman’s trial is a key example of the government’s assault on independent political and civil society, even as it moves to ban nearly all opposition members from participating outright.
“The court’s decision to target Sheikh Ali Salman with charges that were clearly drudged up in order to undermine the voice of the opposition prior to the elections is absolutely egregious,” says Executive Director of ADHRB Husain Abdulla. “It is unacceptable that the Bahraini government continues to target opposition leaders for expressing their political opinions. The international community must come together to put pressure on Bahrain to release Sheikh Ali Salman, as well as all other prisoners of conscience, and reinstate all arbitrarily dissolved political societies.”
The further imprisonment and possible death penalty against Sheikh Ali Salman should be of extreme concern to the international community, especially as Bahrain enters into its election season. ADHRB, BIRD, and ECDHR call on the Government of Bahrain to release Sheikh Salman at once and drop all extant charges against him. We further call on the international community, in particular key allies of Bahrain including the United States and United Kingdom, to pressure the Bahraini government to end its oppressive and systematic human rights violations, including its all-out crackdown on civil and political society.