Bahrain: NPWJ strongly condemns shocking verdict upholding the 9-year prison sentence against Sheikh Ali Salman

14 Dec, 2016 | Press Releases

Brussels – Rome, 14 December 2016
Yesterday, a Bahraini Appeals Court has ruled to uphold the 9-year prison sentence against Sheikh Ali Salman (Secretary General of Al Wefaq, the major opposition party in Bahrain), that was overturned just a few months ago by the Court of Cassation.
At his final appeal hearing, the Court reversed an earlier acquittal on the charges of “seeking to overthrow by force the monarchy and change the political system”.
On 16 July 2015, Sheikh Ali Salman was initially sentenced to four years of imprisonment on charges of “inciting disobedience and hatred against the regime” and “insulting public institutions”.
Sheikh Ali Salman’s trial, which opened on 28 January 2015, has been marred by a number of violations of his right to a fair trial, including to the necessary rights and means of defence.

Statement by Niccolò Figà-Talamanca, Secretary-General of No Peace Without Justice: 

“No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) firmly condemns the decision by a Bahraini Appeals Court to uphold the 9-year prison sentence against the leader of the main opposition party, Sheikh Ali Salman. We express our undiminished solidarity with and support for Salman, who has consistently called for peaceful protest, condemned all forms of violence – including during the speech that formed the basis of his trial – and advocated for a fair and just democratic political system in Bahrain through the establishment of a genuine constitutional monarchy.

“Today’s shocking ruling clearly demonstrates Bahraini authorities’ unabated determination to criminalise free speech, to suppress any peaceful dissent and to close any avenue or prospect of dialogue to advance democratic reform, rule of law and respect of human rights in the country. The past 6 months have seen an escalation in the crackdown against the political opposition and civil society activists. This has included the dissolution of Al Wefaq, the revocation of Sheikh Issa Qassim’s citizenship and the detention of Nabeel Rajab.

“This is also a highly dangerous move that can only set the country further along the dangerous path of political turmoil, disunity and sectarianism. In the face of what is rapidly becoming the realisation of the worst possible scenario for Bahrain, the response of the international community cannot continue to be weak and deaf to the plight of Bahraini citizens. So far, the Bahraini authorities have used this approach as a green light to persevere in their repressive and retaliatory practices against peaceful opposition leaders and human rights advocates.

“We urge the international community, and the European Union (EU) in particular, to take immediate action and unequivocally condemn this latest blow to freedom of expression in Bahrain. Failure to do so is, in reality, siding with tyranny and repression. A truly democratic transition in Bahrain will be achieved only if all those who are committed to peaceful and nonviolent dialogue are able to contribute fully to the political process without fear of reprisals. The international community must support this process rather than turning a blind eye to another move clearly designed to thwart democracy and human rights”.