18 June 2018
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
I write to you on behalf of Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights to bring to your attention our deep concerns regarding the trial of prisoner of conscience Sheikh Ali Salman.
Sheikh Ali Salman is a prominent opposition figure, and the Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the largest political society in the Gulf, which was arbitrarily dissolved.
Sheikh Salman is serving a four-year prison term over charges of “inciting hatred against the regime and insulting Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior” since 28 December 2014. This dubious charge has been denied with strong evidence from his speeches. However, Sheikh Salman is currently facing new charges and is scheduled to be sentenced on 21 June 2018 after facing 10 hearings before the court.
Bahrain’s Public Prosecution accused Sheikh Salman of “spying for Qatar” over phone calls between him and Qatar’s former prime minister, which took place in the wider context of political efforts to resolve the crisis that broke out in Bahrain in February 2011. Sheikh Salman denied the charges raised against him, while Qatar’s Prime Minister stressed that the “incriminating” phone calls were done with the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s knowledge and as part of the Gulf-US initiative to settle the crisis.
Sheikh Salman is well-known for his peaceful and moderate political speech, throughout all his political life. He has been described as a symbol for non-violence and peace.
There is a firm belief that Sheikh Ali Salman has been targeted for expressing his political views publicly, for defending the right to political participation, arguing against corruption and oppression, as well as demanding democracy, political reforms, social justice and equality among the people of Bahrain.
Moreover, Sheikh Salman’s right to a fair trial was violated since the very first day of his arrest. Ms Navi Pillay, former High Commissioner for Human Rights, has described his trial as a “political persecution”, as well as Amnesty International who considered it a “false justice”.
The Government of Bahrain benefits from your administration’s unconditional support, along with other allies. Your administration, which was the main party in the US-Gulf initiative, is aware that Sheikh Ali Salman’s call with the Qatari former prime minister, which Bahrain’s Public Prosecution based itself on, was part of the aforementioned initiative.
The people of Bahrain have been longing to achieve democracy, freedom, equality and social justice. Despite being under repression for more than seven years, the Bahraini people remained peaceful in demanding their freedom and democracy; the same values which the American people have usually praised.
We call upon your administration to exert pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:
- Release Sheikh Ali Salman unconditionally, along with all the political prisoners in the country;
- Drop all the charges against Sheikh Ali Salman as per the reconstructions by United Nations Special Rapporteurs;
- Halt all human rights violations, hold perpetrators accountable, and compensate the victims;
- End all forms of discrimination;
- Set a national dialogue with all the opposition parties.
We appreciate the annual reports issued by the U.S. Department of State on human rights and religious freedoms. We hope that you will work in accordance to the recommendations issued by both reports.
Looking forward for your positive response.