Bahrain has taken the worrying decision to worsen the situation further and has stuck new barriers in front of any political solution. The Bahraini court held the fifth appeals session for Sheikh Ali Salman on January 14, 2016 and adjourned his case until 30th March.
This is the longest delay between hearings that we have witnessed thus far, and reflects the authorities insistence in keeping Sheikh Ali in prison for as long as possible. By the 30th March, Sheikh Ali would have spent 15 months in prison already, despite the clear bias of the judicial system and lack of evidence against him.
We have continuously said that peaceful opposition leaders, such as Sheikh Ali Salman, must be incorporated into any political solution, rather than held behind bars. It once again shows the complete lack of goodwill and confidence measures that are needed to take Bahrain forwards and further retains the county in a state of paralysis, unable to move on from the growing political, economic and social crises.
Sheikh Salman’s session lasted for 2 hours with himself acting as a witness. This particular appeals process is contested by both the prosecution, who wish to increase the sentence, and the defence, who of course wish to have the sentence voided. There was a heavy security presence around the courthouse and representatives of the political societies, including Al Wefaq, were not permitted entrance.
Sheikh Ali appeared in the prisoner’s uniform and spoke reaffirming his commitment to an inclusive national dialogue and a constitutional monarchy. He also called on the international community to support the democratic rights of Bahrainis, including the EU, US and the UN.
Sheikh Ali once again reiterated his right to pursue greater democratic rule, underlining that freedom of expression is not a crime and that the accusations against him are false.
It is not yet known whether the next hearing will be the final one, it very much seems the authorities are still making up their minds. Whilst this displays the complete lack of justice in Bahrain, it also shows that serious efforts from the international community can still have a positive impact on this case.
The Bahrain Justice and Development Movement (BJDM) calls on the Bahraini government to immediately release Sheikh Ali Salman. It also calls on the international community and Bahrain’s allies, particularly EU and US to call publicly on Bahrain to respect human rights and release all the prisoners who are behind bars solely for expressing their opinions. BJDM sees that the Bahraini government is locking the door of reform with keeping Sheikh Ali Salman behind bars.