HRW Demands Immediate Release of Sheikh Ali Salman & Ebrahim Sharif
2015-10-09 - 1:11 am
Bahrain Mirror: Human Rights Watch (HRW) demanded the immediate release of the "unjustly imprisoned political opposition leaders Ibrahim Sharif and Sheikh Ali Salman".
It added in a statement on Wednesday (October 7, 2015) that the charges brought against Ebrahim Sharif "violate his right to freedom of expression, and should never have been brought," and that Sheikh Ali Salman faces four-year sentence "on speech-related charges".
"Salman and Sharif have consistently supported peaceful political reform and should be at a negotiating table with Bahrain's government, not languishing behind bars," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. "Countries that say they support Bahrain's reform process should make this point publicly," he added.
The organization explained that Sharif condemned in his speech, that he was arrested over, the government and called for protest against their actions, but unequivocally repudiated violence. The charges against him "are wholly without foundation and violate international standards on freedom of expression," stressed Human Rights Watch.
"At the first session of Salman's appeal hearing, on September 15, 2015, the judge, as at previous hearings and without any explanation, refused Salman's lawyers permission to present potentially exculpatory evidence. Representatives from the United Kingdom and United States embassies were in court at the time to witness the judge's refusal," HRW further stated.
Human Rights Watch reviewed the trial documents and found that the presiding judge refused to allow Salman's defense lawyers to present potentially exculpatory evidence, including recordings of the speeches for which he was prosecuted, on the grounds that "the intent of them is to raise doubts about the substantiating evidence that has persuaded the court."
Instead of reviewing the actual content of Salman's speeches, the court in its ruling appeared to rely on hearsay evidence from Khalid al-Sa'idi, an Interior Ministry officer who, according to the judgment, "said that he himself had listened to recordings of these sermons and speeches." Al Sa'idi's written description of Salman's speeches in the Directorate of Crime Detention report, which formed the basis of the prosecution's case against Salman, may have misrepresented their content.
"The US and the UK are fully aware of the gross unfairness of Salman's trial and the content of Sharif's peaceful speeches, and this should give them good reason to call publicly for an end to their prosecutions and their immediate release," said Stork.
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