A group of UN human rights experts on Wednesday urged the Bahrain [press release] government to release the peaceful politician Sheikh Ali Salman. The religious figure serves as the main political opposition to the Bahraini government, the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society [GU Berkley Center backgrounder]. He was charged [JURIST report] in January for inciting a change of regime by non-peaceful means. The human rights experts criticized the arrest and prosecution as a violation of Salman’s right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religion. The experts have requested that the Bahraini authorities provide more information regarding the details of Sheikh Salman’s offenses, and encourage the government to release all individuals who have been detained for peaceful expression of their views.
Political tensions remain high in Bahrain following protests that began in 2011. In July Salman was charged over meeting with a US diplomat [JURIST report]. In April a Bahrain court sentenced [JURIST report] eight activists to life in prison for killing a policeman and participating in anti-regime protests the previous August. Also last spring a Bahrain court sentenced [JURIST report] 13 citizens to life in prison and one man to 10 years in prison for attempting to kill a police officer and participating in an illegal protest. In late 2013 a judge in Bahrain rejected [JURIST report] a request from human rights activist Nabeel Rajab to approve his conditional early release, for which Rajab was eligible under Bahraini law. US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki commented that the US continues to urge Bahrain to permit all sectors of society to peacefully voice their political views.