Bahrain Shia opposition leader arrested

Bahrain Shia opposition leader arrested
3 min read
29 December, 2014
Bahrain's leader of the opposition Sheikh Ali Salman has been detained and charged with eight offences related to inciting religious hatred and threatening security, sparking protests and clashes in the small but strategic Gulf state.
Salman was recently re-elected as leader of Al-Wefaq for another four years [AFP]

Scattered clashes broke out in Bahrain Sunday evening between protesters and government forces after the country's main Shia opposition, al-Wefaq, said its secretary general Sheikh Ali Salman was detained by criminal investigators after more than 12 hours of questioning without his lawyer.

Al-Wefaq says that Sheikh Salman was detained after being summoned on Sunday for questioning by the general directorate of criminal investigation.

"The targeting of Salman is a serious, uncalculated adventure that complicates the political and security scene in Bahrain," sources at Al-Wefaq argued. The Shia political opposition party also called for his "immediate release."

    

Salman's arrest comes after the opposition held the first demonstrations since the November 2014 parliamentary election.


According to sources at Al-Wefaq, Salman has been charged with eight offenses: inciting hatred against the ruling regime, calling for the toppling of the regime by force, insulting the judiciary and executive authorities, inciting hatred against a certain sect of people, seeking overseas support, disseminating statements and news that could upset security, and participating in marches and gatherings that harm the economy.

Bahrain's Interior Ministry posted a statement on its website saying: "The General Directorate of the Criminal Investigation summoned Al-Wefaq Secretary Ali Salman Ahmad this morning, Sunday, to question him on charges of violating the provisions of the law and committing acts punishable by law."

His lawyer Abdullah al-Shamlawi told the AP news agency that the accusations refer to speeches that Salman gave between 2012 and now.

Sources close to Salman said he informed his family by phone of his arrest but did not know his location. They lost contact with him before he was able to give further details.

The Interior Ministry says Salman's case is being referred to public prosecutors and he could next face official charges.

Since February 20111 when the country's Shia majority led protests demanding political reform from the Sunni-led monarchy, at least 89 people have been killed in clashes with security forces, and hundreds have been arrested and put on trial, human rights groups say.

But authorities have rejected Al-Wefaq's demand for an elected prime minister to replace the current government dominated by the ruling family.

Al-Wefaq's announcement that it would boycott a November parliamentary election it dismissed as a farce was followed by a court order banning the party in late October.  

Strategically located just across the Gulf from Iran, Bahrain is home base of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and Britain announced plans earlier this month to build a naval base of its own. 


Bahrain is also a partner in the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria.

 
This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Additional reporting by agencies.