Opposition figure accused after interrogation

Sheikh Maytham Al Salman, a leading opposition figure, was interrogated on Thursday of last week following a press conference held regarding violations of religious freedom in Bahrain. Salman is head of the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO) Religious Freedom Unit who had held a briefing on 18th November highlighting documented attacks on religious freedom during the holy month of Muharram.

Following this conference he was called for interrogation on Thursday 5th December and accused of inciting hatred of the regime, insulting a governmental body and calling for an unauthorized assembly. Salman describes the charges as “malicious” and says he expects the accusations to “mature into charges” in order to “demobilize my movement in reporting religious freedom violations”.

In his role as Head of BHRO’s Religious Freedom Unit Salman has regularly reported on sectarian discrimination in Bahrain, as well as being a leading figure in promoting interfaith dialogue in the country. He says he will not stop his work despite the accusations and threats, saying “I will continue to strive to defend the religious freedom rights of all Bahrainis and expats living in Bahrain regardless of the malicious accusations and indirect threats.”

During the press conference Salman reported on a number of practices by the authorities to restrict religious freedom, including interrogation of Mosque leaders, removal of religious displays and tear gassing of religious processions and gatherings. He said, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to practice his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Salman was arrested in March 2011 during the emergency law crackdown and held for more than 6 months under charges of inciting hatred against the regime and participating in unlawful gatherings, similar to the fresh accusations.

In response to his interrogation a petition has been launched calling for an end to the “harassment of religious freedom activists.”

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