SHAFAQNA – The defense panel for Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary General of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society in Bahrain, said the court’s measures came short of their clients right to defense and fair trial.
Jalila Alsayed, member of Salman’s defense panel, said the court refused the panel’s request to show videos containing recordings of the speeches of which the charges against Salman were based on.
Alsayed also revealed that the court rejected the majority of the questions that were directed to the prosecution witness, who is an investigations officer at the Ministry of Interior. She said the prosecutor rephrased some of the questions from their original form which affected the witness’s responses.
“The defense panel believes that preventing the witness from being questioned is an attempt to hide the truth”, she stated, “which goes short of Sheikh Ali Salman’s fundamental right to defense”. Alsayed pointed out that the defense panel made a number of requests. She mentioned that the lawsuit against Sheikh Ali Salman was filed by the Head of Public Security by order from the Interior Minister, however, the court rejected the defense’s request to hear their testimonies.
“If the defense panel is deprived from questioning the witnesses who filed the case, how can the trial be fair?” she said.
She added that the accusations against Sheikh Ali Salman included speeches he made against discrimination and political naturalization policies by the state. “The defense panel requested the official figures on the numbers of employees according to their sect, in the army, national guard, ministry of interior, ministry of education and ministry of information and else,” she said, “the court ignored this request, thereby, expropriating Salman’s right to defense and denial of charges. The defense panel also requested official statistics on naturalization to prove whether Sheikh Ali’s allegations are right or not, again, the court rejected our request”.
Confidentiality of lawyer’s papers broken
Alsayed said that Sheikh Ali’s lawyers were inspected by the policemen outside the court, in violation to the confidentiality of the case-papers. She said the defense panel will discuss all options with Sheikh Ali Salman in response to the court’s illegal measures, including withdrawal from the case.
She further explained, “We raised this issue to the court explaining the way I was inspected where I was subjected to thorough inspection, my papers which are classified highly confidential, under the law, were inspected as well despite the fact that no one has the right to see them. Ironically, the rest of my partners were not inspected this time. I raised this issue in front of the court. I have not been inspected in such a way over the 28 years of doing my job except during the State-Security period and the National Safety periods, in the military courts.
She added that in the second hearing session the lawyers raised this issue as they told the court that no serious measures had been taken to prevent the inspection from being repeated. On Wednesday, the 3rdhearing session of Sheikh Ali, the lawyers were allowed to go through what was similar to a check point before the court. A large number of police officers were present in the corridor that leads to the court with a list of names of persons allowed to attend the hearing. Usually, only one family member is allowed in.
“However, when I reached the checkpoint, I was stopped and inspected,” she went on, “I objected to this discriminatory measure and my colleagues showed solidarity with me. Ten minute later, after the officers made a phone call with God know who, I was allowed to go through without being inspected”.
She stressed that such circumstances are usually set ahead of every hearing session in order to make the lawyers nervous while doing their job. “We have not seen such violations in the courts before, therefore, we cannot understand the justifications behind this measure which do not go in line with the standards of a fair trial with suitable circumstances for the defense panel to do its job in an efficient manner”, she explained.
No evidence to support charges against Sheikh Ali Salman
“The defense panel closely watched the political situation in Bahrain and the political statements released by the political figures”, she continued, “However, we strongly believe that Sheikh Ali never had the intention of calling for the overthrow of the regime by force and never called for violence, because he is not convinced of such an approach”.
Alsayed stated that the defense panel has thoroughly gone through the allegations made against him and referred to as many speeches possible delivered by him, but couldn’t find any threat of using violence or seeking to change the regime by force.
Alsayed insisted that Sheikh Ali Salman has a candid stance against violence as stated in the statute of his society.
Alsayed played a number of footages of speeches delivered by Sheikh Ali in different periods and occasions in a press conference in Al Wefaq headquarters.
“In all his speeches, Sheikh Ali emphasized on the peaceful movement and strongly rejected violence and any militarizing of the popular movement”, she added, “He always called for dialogue and a constitutional monarchy with fair electoral districts, these are the bases of democracy in any country. If the ruling family in Bahrain believes that Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy then Sheikh Ali is calling for it to be implemented. And if we refer to 300 to 400 of the speeches in gatherings, conferences and sermons, the picture will become even clearer”.
Alsayed stated that the core of the allegations against Sheikh Ali were in his speeches, but when the panel requested that the speeches be showed in court, the court rejected. The defense panel considered such a measure will affect the right of Sheikh Ali to defense.
Sheikh Ali is being prosecuted for what he said, but the prosecutor refuses to listen to what he said. In a public session the evidence has to be presented, otherwise the trial will lack the bases of fair trial.
Questions ignored by court
Alsayed mentioned that the defense panel was ready to question the prosecution witness, an investigation officer, but most of the questions were rejected and the panel was prevented from questioning the witness which she said is an attempt to hide the truth in the court.
“This is a small part about the courts measures which undermined the right to defense of our client. We express great concern over Sheikh Ali Salman as long as the court continues with these measures, even if there will be an appeal. What is happening in court now does not meet the standards of fair trial”.
Alsayed mentioned that the panel had spoken to the president of the supreme judicial council about the fact that it took 2 months for the court to deliver a copy of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s report to Sheikh Ali because one of the charges he is facing is “insulting the Ministry of Interior” and the defense will depend mostly on the BICI report which was submitted to the King.
Alsayed said the last hearing was fateful and the lawyers will discuss their options with Sheikh Ali Salman.