Justice Minister sends threatening letter to prominent Shi’ite leader
Sheikh Issa Qassim, a leading Bahraini Shi’ite has received a letter from Bahrain’s Justice Ministry, telling him to ‘tone down’ his speeches.
The letter accuses Sheikh Issa of both inciting violence and dividing the country.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Sheikh Issa has consistently denounced any violent acts and most recently encouraged protestors to avoid using slogans such as “down with the King”.
Sheikh Issa has been a long time proponent of peaceful protest and dialogue, for which he has been very well known. Far from dividing people, he has urged Sunni participation in protests and has made many speeches promoting unity of people.
The letter also expresses anger at Sheikh Issa’s denunciation of the coming by-elections that are due to take place at the end of September. This seems to be the real reason for the threatening letter, as the Bahraini Government are keen to capitalize on the absence of much of the opposition in the elections.
However, these elections cannot be seen as legitimate. The election comes after eighteen opposition MP’s resigned in February 2011 in protest at the treatment of demonstrators.
Since then there have been continued arrests, allegations of torture and more brutal crackdowns on demonstrators. In addition the imbalance in the distribution of voting constituencies has not been addressed, giving a disproportional number of seats to pro-government MP’s.
Until this issue is properly dealt with, the elections must be considered as illegitimate.
We are also concerned such a letter is usually followed by at least a request for questioning and at worst an official arrest.
Such an outcome would be a disaster for Bahrain, as it is Sheikh Issa who has worked tirelessly to ensure all protest are peaceful and the demands likewise.
We are very grateful to the Bahrain Independent Commission who has immediately taken this issue up with the Bahraini Authorities. They have been promised that Sheikh Issa will not be arrested, although in a country where promises are hardly ever kept, no one can be sure if this will be the case.
We urge the Bahraini Justice Ministry to drop their false claims against Sheikh Issa and make a public apology for their inaccurate letter.
Above: Copy of the letter sent to Sheikh Issa Qassim