Gulf Daily News Thursday, 29th January 2015 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 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. email@example.com 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 #NoBetterTimeThanNow Fly away with an HSBC Personal Loan from 6.20% APR* • Competitive processing fees starting from BHD 100 only with no insurance fees • Defer your monthly instalment up to two times a year • Borrow up to BHD 60,000 BHD Call 8000 1900 Click www.hsbc.com.bh Product terms and conditions and fees and charges apply. 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