Bahrain: Verdict on opposition leader is bitter blow to freedom of expression

Responding to the news that Bahrain’s Court of Cassation has upheld the conviction of opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, Amnesty International’s Middle East Campaigns Director, Samah Hadid said:
“Today’s verdict is yet another nail in the coffin for the right to freedom of expression in Bahrain and exposes the country’s justice system as a complete farce. The decision to uphold Sheikh Ali Salman’s conviction and life prison sentence following an unfair trial highlights the authorities’ determination to silence critical voices.
“The Bahraini authorities must quash Sheikh Ali Salman’s conviction and release him immediately and unconditionally. They should also rescind the decision to dissolve the two opposition political groups, al-Wefaq and Wa’ad, and guarantee the right of everyone to freedom of association.”
Sheikh Ali Salman is the Secretary General of Bahrain’s main political opposition group, al-Wefaq. He has been repeatedly arrested and charged for his perceived critical views of the authorities.
The case against Sheikh Ali Salman is based on recorded telephone conversations he had with the-then Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al Thani, in 2011.
On 4 November 2018, he was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of trumped-up spying charges. Two other al-Wefaq members, Ali al-Aswad and Sheikh Hassan Sultan, were convicted in their absence during the same trial.
In December 2018, Sheikh Ali Salman finished serving a separate four-year prison sentence handed to him on 16 June 2015 after an unfair trial on charges related to his perceived critical political views.
Opposition parties al-Wefaq and Wa’ad were both prevented from participating in Bahrain’s elections in November 2018.