Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday that Bahrain’s most prominent opposition figure faces four years in prison on ‘speech-related charges’ following an ‘unfair trial’, calling upon the regime authorities to vacate Sheikh Ali Salman’s conviction on charges that violate the right to freedom of expression and should release him ‘without delay.’
A Human Rights Watch review of trial documents shows that the presiding judge refused to allow Sheikh Salman’s defense lawyers to present potentially exculpatory evidence, including recordings of speeches he was prosecuted for, on the grounds that “the intent of them is to raise doubts about the substantiating evidence that has persuaded the court.” His appeal is scheduled for September 15.
“The court’s refusal to consider crucial defense evidence confirms the political nature of Sheikh Ali Salman’s prosecution,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director. “The manifest unfairness of the trial means the authorities should release Salman immediately.”
Bahrain’s chief prosecutor, Nayef Yousef Mahmoud, said that his detention related to “a series of recent statements and pronouncements.” Despite the fact that the charges related to his speeches and sermons, the presiding judge never allowed Salman’s lawyers to present video or audio evidence of the allegedly offending speeches and sermons to the court.