SHAFAQNA -Â Amnesty International has called on Bahraini authorities to release â€œimmediately and unconditionallyâ€ the prominent Shia cleric and opposition leader, Sheikh Ali Salman.
In a statement released on Monday, Amnesty described Salman as “a prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully expressing his views.â€
The detention and trial of Salman is â€œa blatant violation of his right to freedom of expression,â€ the rights group said, adding that the move shows â€œthe Bahraini authorities continued attempt to suppress political opposition and silence critical voices.â€
The statement further stressed that Salmanâ€™s detention and prosecution are in violation of Bahrainâ€™s international obligations that necessitate respecting the right to freedom of expression.
The Bahraini regime arrested Sheikh Salman, the head of the countryâ€™s main opposition bloc al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, last December, shortly after he called for serious political reforms in Bahrain following his re-election as the secretary general of al-Wefaq.
The charges brought against him include â€œincitement to promote the change of the political system by force, threats and other illegal means,â€ among others. However, the 49-year-old has strongly denied the charges, emphasizing that he has been seeking reforms in the kingdom through peaceful means.
Amnestyâ€™s appeal for Salmanâ€™s release comes ahead of his trial session on June 16, when the Fourth High Criminal Court in the capital Manama is expected to issue a verdict against the Shia cleric.
Sheikh Salman might be given a 10-year jail term if convicted, according to his defense team.
His arrest has angered his supporters and sparked many protest rallies so far across Bahrain.