United States Urged to Publicly Call for Release of Sheikh Ali Salman in Bahrain

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged the U.S. government to renew its call for the release of Bahraini opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman before Monday’s scheduled appeal court verdict. Sheikh Salman was detained in December 2014 after delivering a series of peaceful speeches calling for political reform. In June 2015 he was sentenced to four years in prison on charges of insulting the Bahraini Interior Ministry and inciting others to break the law.

“The Bahraini authorities have a chance on Monday to reverse Sheikh Salman’s alarming conviction. His imprisonment contradicts promises of reform and makes an inclusive political settlement unlikely,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “If the U.S. government is serious about helping Bahrain escape its political crisis it should publicly call for his immediate release so he can be part of a much-needed dialogue with the government.”

In February, the State Department called for the release of Sheikh Salman and another jailed opposition leader, Ibrahim Sharif, saying “[I]t is important that the government of Bahrain and opposition groups work together to implement reforms that meet international standards in these areas.”

Sheikh Ali Salman is the Secretary General of the main opposition political society, Al Wefaq. After being exiled from Bahrain in the 1990s, he returned to the country in 2001. As the leader of Al Wefaq, Salman was active during the 2011 protests in Bahrain and continues to lead the call for political reform.

Since the 2011 violent government crackdown on mass protests, the United States has failed to back up rhetoric supporting human rights and civil society with action, downplaying these priorities in favor of short-term military objectives. A recent Human Rights First blueprint outlines recommendations for the U.S. government to support civil society and strengthen respect for human rights.

Today also marks 50 days since Bahrain’s Foreign Minister announced at a press conference with Secretary Kerry that prominent dissent Zainab Al Khawaja would be released on humanitarian grounds. As of today she remains in Isa Town Women’s Prison.


Published on May 27, 2016


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