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Home / Press Release / Human Rights First Decries Continuing Detention of Bahrain’s Peaceful Opposition Leaders
November 11, 2015

Human Rights First Decries Continuing Detention of Bahrain’s Peaceful Opposition Leaders

Washington, D.C. - Human Rights First today called for the immediate release of Sheikh Ali Salman and Ebrahim Sharif, two of Bahrain’s most prominent peaceful political opposition leaders. Ali Salman, the leader of Bahrain’s main peaceful opposition group Al Wefaq, is appealing a conviction on political charges. Sharif, a leader of the opposition group Waad, is currently on trial in Bahrain for comments made during a speech calling for reform. Their next hearings are both scheduled for Thursday, November 12.

“The crisis in Bahrain demands a political solution, which can only be achieved if peaceful leaders including Sheikh Ali Salman and Ebrahim Sharif are not behind bars, but at the negotiating table,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “They are two of several political and civil society leaders who ought to be part of a solution to Bahrain’s crisis, not excluded and silenced by the authorities.”

Ali Salman was convicted in June 2015 on politically-motivated charges and sentenced to four years in prison after an unfair trial. Human Rights First called his conviction a “major setback” for political reforms. Last week, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention officially declared his detention to be arbitrary, citing free expression and due process concerns. The U.S. government, reiterating its statement from June, remains “deeply concerned” and called this week for charges based on peaceful expression or assembly to be dropped. Ali Salman is now appealing his case.

Sharif was arbitrarily arrested in July 2015 for engaging in peaceful dissent. He had been released from prison just weeks before having served nearly all of a five-year sentence imposed for peacefully calling for reform in 2011. Sharif was tortured and convicted by a military court in 2011 with other peaceful opposition leaders in a violent government response to calls for reform. On these new charges stemming from political remarks he made in a speech, he reportedly faces up to ten years in prison.

Sharif’s arrest came two weeks after the Obama Administration announced it was lifting its ban on arms sales to the Bahraini military, citing "meaningful progress on human rights." Other leading opposition figures imprisoned in 2011 remain in jail, and the Bahrain government’s failure to reform since widespread pro-democracy protests broke out in February 2011 has resulted in years of instability.

Human Rights First continues to urge Members of Congress to support S. 2009 and H.R. 3445, a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Wyden (D-WA) that would ban the sale of small arms and ammunition to Bahrain until the government fully implements all 26 recommendations made by the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). Congressmen Joe Pitts (R-PA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Hank Johnson (D-GA) introduced the counterpart in the House. 

For more information or to speak with Dooley, contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at 212-845-5269.