A leading opposition figure in Bahrain was denied bail in a first court hearing attended by an Amnesty International delegation. He will remain in custody until 25 February. Amnesty International is calling for charges to be dropped and for his immediate release.

The trial of Sheikh ‘Ali Salman, Secretary General of the main opposition group in Bahrain, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, started on 28 January before the High Criminal Court in Manama, the capital of Bahrain. An Amnesty International delegation attended Sheikh ‘Ali Salman’s first hearing, together with representatives of the UK and US embassies, amongst others. He pleaded not guilty. Requests by his lawyers to release him on bail were rejected and the court ruled he should remain in custody until the next hearing on 25 February.

He was arrested on 28 December following interrogation at the Ministry of Interior’s Criminal Investigations Directorate in connection with statements made in speeches in 2012 and 2014. Sheikh ‘Ali Salman was charged with “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”.

Some of these charges seem to stem from statements made during his speech at the party’s General Assembly meeting on 26 December when he referred to the refusal of the opposition in Bahrain to follow the approach of the Syrian opposition and turn the country into a military battleground. In the same speech, he spoke about the opposition’s continuing determination to reach power in Bahrain, to achieve the demands of the 2011 uprising through peaceful means and to hold those responsible for abuses to account. He also highlighted the need for equality for all Bahrainis, including with the ruling family.

Please write immediately in English or Arabic:

- Calling on the Bahraini authorities to release Sheikh ‘Ali Salman immediately and unconditionally and to drop the charges against him, as he is a prisoner of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression;
- Urging them to uphold the right to freedom of expression and repeal laws that criminalize the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. 

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 11 MARCH 2015 TO:

King
Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa Office of His Majesty the King P.O. Box 555
Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama Bahrain
Fax: +973 1766 4587
Salutation: Your Majesty

Minister of Interior

Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa

Ministry of Interior

P.O. Box 13, al-Manama

Bahrain

Fax: +973 1723 2661

Twitter: @moi_Bahrain

Salutation: Your Excellency

And copies to:
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs

Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa

Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs

P. O. Box 450, al-Manama

Bahrain

Fax: +973 1753 1284

Email via website:

http://www.moj.gov.bh/en/

Twitter: @Khaled_Bin_Ali

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:

Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.