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Bahrain must release arrested opposition leader, guarantee fair trial – UN rights office

Photo: UN/MINUSTAH/Logan Abassi
UN/MINUSTAH/Logan Abassi
Photo: UN/MINUSTAH/Logan Abassi

Bahrain must release arrested opposition leader, guarantee fair trial – UN rights office

The United Nations human rights office is urging Bahrain to immediately release opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman as well as all other persons convicted or detained for “merely exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly.”

Sheikh Salman was arrested after being summoned for questioning at the Criminal Investigation Department on Sunday, only two days after his re-election for a fourth term as the Secretary General of Al Wefaq, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson Liz Throssell said in Geneva today.

“We are seriously concerned at the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of Bahrain’s main opposition movement, Al Wefaq, as well as the continuing harassment and imprisonment of individuals exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression in the country,” Ms. Throssell added.

According to Sheikh Salman’s lawyers, he has been accused of a number of serious charges that carry hefty prison terms, including calling for the overthrow of the government.

“We urge the Government of Bahrain Should Sheikh Salman be brought to trial, the Government of Bahrain should guarantee a fair trial,” Ms. Throssell said.

“We also call upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately implement the recommendations put forward during the country’s Universal Periodic Review (before the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council) in 2012, as well as by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in 2011, to ensure freedom of expression and assembly.”

Opposition parties are fundamental pillars of any democracy and Sheikh Salman’s arrest risks intensifying the fraught political scene that has seen anti-government protests for nearly four years. Peaceful constructive dialogue is the only way out of Bahrain’s current crisis, she said.

In a separate appeal yesterday, several UN human rights experts urged the government of Bahrain to drop charges against three women human rights activists exercising their rights to free expression and free association.

The three activists include two sisters Ms. Maryam Al-Khawaja and Ms. Zainab Al-Khawaja, and Ms. Ghada Jamsheer.