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Gulf Daily News
Thursday, 29th January 2015
Email: gdnnews@gdn.com.bh
3
Opposition leader answers
charges of inciting hatred
OPPOSITION
leader Shaikh Ali Salman
has pleaded not guilty
to encouraging the
overthrow
of
the
government.
The secretary-general of
Al Wefaq National Islamic Society appeared in the
High Criminal Court for the
first time yesterday with a
five-member defence team,
where he was given 40 minutes to respond to charges of
promoting the overthrow of
the government and changing the political regime by
force, inciting hatred against
a certain sect, insulting the
Interior Ministry, and inciting others to break the law.
There was a heavy security presence in the area as
Shaikh Salman was brought
to the Justice, Islamic Affairs
and Endowments Ministry
complex in the Diplomatic
Area in a prison bus escorted
by six police vehicles and a
helicopter.
Al
Wefaq
yesterday
claimed on Twitter that people were not allowed into the
hearing, however, the GDN
was inside the courtroom
which was packed with Al
Wefaq officials, diplomats
from the American, British,
Italian, German and French
embassies, human rights activists and relatives, including at least one of his wives.
During the hearing, which
lasted for nearly two hours,
Shaikh Salman denied the
charges, adding he supported
the government and called
for peaceful democratic reforms.
Defence lawyers requested the release of Shaikh Salman, which was rejected by
judges, who adjourned the
trial to February 25 for review.
The senior judge also allowed Shaikh Salman to take
copies of court documents,
after the latter requested to
review them while in prison.
The Public Prosecution
claimed that Shaikh Salman
incited violence against the
regime and called for the use
of force.
“The case was referred to
the court following the conclusion of investigations by
the Public Prosecution which
led to the defendant being
charged with promoting political change using illegal
forceful means and threats, in
addition to inciting non-compliance with the law,” it said
in a statement yesterday.
“The defendant was also
charged with publicly inciting hatred, an act which had
disturbed public peace.
“The charges were levelled against the defendant,
in full accordance with Bahrain’s penal code, following
investigations into recordings of public speeches and
By NOOR ZAHRA
sermons that promoted extremist views.
“Evidence underpinning the
charges also included public
statements delivered by the defendant that incited violence and
encouraged the use of military
force against the Kingdom’s authorities, referring to such acts
as a religious duty.”
However, Shaikh Salman
said: “It’s completely outside
the perceived that a person like
me would be charged with inciting to overthrow the regime.
“I have been working in politics since 1998 when people
secretly called to overthrow the
regime, and I did not take that
path and was on the opposing
side,” he told judges, reading
from a document.
“I always stood alongside
the government and backed
the Constitution. I was even a
former MP.
“Even in 2011 I stuck by the
constitutional monarchy despite
people calling to overthrow the
regime again.”
He said he was “shocked”
when he was arrested, and
stressed that overthrowing
the government would cause
further political chaos in the
country.
He claimed his comments
about the Interior Ministry were
meant to be critical and not defamatory.
which were not complete thereby changing their context,” Ms
Al Sayed said as she presented
evidence to the court.
The defence team requested
the court to screen video footage of some of Shaikh Salman’s
speeches, which is still pending
with judges.
Meanwhile, it was business as
usual across the country yesterday, despite calls by Bahrain’s
political opposition for an economic boycott.
Al Wefaq called on its supporters to halt all financial transactions for 24 hours between
Tuesday night and last night to
coincide with the trial.
Many areas, considered opposition strongholds, remained
largely unaffected by the boycott calls. However, businesses were closed for a few hours
in certain villages along the
Budaiya Highway, including
Duraz.
noorz@gdn.com.bh
Insult
However, prosecutors said
Shaikh Salman insulted the ministry by calling policemen mercenaries who belong to terrorist
organisations.
“I have nothing to hide and
when I mentioned mistakes by
the Interior Ministry, my intentions were to improve the situation in Bahrain,” said Shaikh
Salman.
He added that he did not incite hatred against “naturalised
Bahrainis”, but suggested introducing an immigration law to
limit the number of new citizens
because of lack of resources in
the country.
Meanwhile, the defence team
argued that Shaikh Salman
did not threaten the possibility of arming the opposition in
Bahrain.
“There are groups in Bahrain
that carry out terrorist acts and my
client always opposed them and
said the only method for reform
was through peaceful means,”
said lawyer Jalila Al Sayed.
“Prosecutors accused him
of threatening to possibly use
weapons in the country, but how
can that be when my client firmly stood against violence.”
She also accused the Public
Prosecution of presenting distorted evidence to the court,
which prompted Chief Prosecutor Osama Al Oufi to object to
the claims.
“Prosecutors provided evidence of my client’s speeches
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