Sheikh Ali Salman, Moderate Bahraini Political Leader

by Tauqeer Abbas

Shafaqna Pakistan: Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary General of Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society (Al-Wefaq) stood for “national reconciliation” and “peaceful advocacy” and his competence is in “political flexibility” and “social adaptation”. The Bahraini government has been targeting Al-Wefaq Society members for their political views and human rights activism for years. Sheikh Ali Salman (born October 30, 1965) is a moderate Bahraini political leader who possesses the competence of manoeuvring through storms and facing challenges without losing his calmness.

Sheikh Ali Salman is surely one of the most prominent and influential political figures who knows how to mobilize others around ideas within his community. He has succeeded in the past in winning and sustaining understandings that could put ideas into practical use and could potentially generate positive results through “intra-diplomacy” and “inter-diplomacy” skills.

Sheikh Ali’s manoeuvring skills, his ability to change tactics, his openness towards benefiting from feedbacks and learning from previous mistakes, his experience in creating consensus within his community, his flexibility towards political mechanisms and ability to adjust and adapt to changing environments, surely places him in a position to play a role in the long awaited national reconciliation process in Bahrain, Bahraininterfaith told.

It might not be possible to uncover his competence in “political flexibility and adaptability” through studying his speeches. A thorough study of his private talks with Government official including talks with government in between the years 2001 and 2014 would uncover his competence in positively managing differences. Sheikh Ali Salman went through the experience of meetings and talks with officials with an intention to solve differences and reach to a consensus on a realistic approach to solve crisis.

Sheikh Ali Salman was a central figure in Bahrain’s 2011 Arab Spring protests. Salman, who is in his 56s, has long been targeted by Bahrain’s government. According to the United Nations, when he was first arrested in 1994, he was allegedly tortured and detained for months without trial before being deported and forced to live in exile for more than 15 years. Sheikh Salman was originally arrested in December 2014 and ultimately sentenced to four years in prison on charges of “inciting disobedience and hatred in the kingdom” for giving speeches in his capacity as Al-Wefaq’s Secretary-General.

In June 2018, Bahrain’s High Criminal Court found Sheikh Ali Salman innocent of these politically motivated charges related to espionage, but the Public Prosecution Office immediately appealed the verdict. Following several postponements of the appeals trial, bringing the ruling closer to Bahrain’s elections, Bahrain’s High Court of Appeals overturned the acquittal and sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman and his two co-defendants to life in prison, Aljazeera mentioned.

On 28 January 2019, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation rejected the appeal of prominent al-Wefaq opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, therefore upholding his sentence of life in prison, ADHRB told. Sheikh Ali Salman’s conviction is in contravention of international legal protections, including his right not to be deprived arbitrarily of liberty as set forth in Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bahrain is a signatory. By sentencing Sheikh Salman for his political views, Bahrain has violated his right to freedom of expression under Article 19 and his right to freedom of association under Article 22 of the ICCPR.

Since his incarceration in 2014, several international bodies have spoken out against the imprisonment of Sheikh Ali Salman. On 30 December 2014, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson urged Bahrain to immediately release Sheikh Ali Salman as well as all other persons convicted or detained for “merely exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly.” In addition, the European Union expressed concern about the sentence issued against Sheikh Ali Salman, and the United States Ambassador to the United Nations called the sentence against Sheikh Ali Salman a blow to freedom of expression.

In a message from Jau Prison on the sixth anniversary of his imprisonment, the secretary-general of Bahrain’s main opposition group, the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, said he has no regrets for having spent six years of his life behind bars for obeying God and helping the oppressed, Iqna reported. Sheikh Ali Salman’s main concern before imprisonment was producing a recipe for national reconciliation that satisfies the ruler and the ruled. He is without any doubt still interested in producing that recipe within his prison cell.

Sheikh Ali Salman is arbitrarily detained for exercising his right to free expression in relation to his peaceful political activism. That he is now at risk of continued imprisonment or even the death penalty constitutes clear reprisal for his opposition political views, and if the Bahraini government takes these actions it will be in flagrant violation of international law.

Source: Shafaqna English

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