Bahrain Urged to Release Opposition Leader

Bahrain Urged to Release Opposition Leader Bahrain Urged to Release Opposition Leader

A foreign ministry official called on Bahrain to “immediately release” Bahraini opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman who has been held in prison since late December.  

Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Monday Manama should understand the “sensitive and complicated” situation in the region and pay serious attention to the warnings of political and religious authorities concerning the immediate release of Sheikh Salman, IRNA reported.

The diplomat’s remarks came after Bahrain’s public prosecutor on Sunday extended the detention of the prominent Shiite cleric for 15 more days despite widespread international condemnation.

The news of the cleric’s arrest triggered protests in Shiite villages across the Sunni-ruled Persian Gulf kingdom. Security forces detained Salman, who leads the country’s main opposition bloc, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, on alleged charges of “promoting regime change by force, threats, and illegal means and insulting the interior ministry publicly.”

The prosecution has rejected a request by defense lawyers to release the cleric on bail.

Amir-Abdollahian also said, “Without a shadow of doubt, by systematic violation of human rights and continuation of such measures, the Bahraini government provides extremist (forces with excuses) and creates problems for the security of Bahrain and the region.”

The detention and incarceration of Sheikh Salman reveals a “serious crisis” in Bahrain, he added. Amir-Abdollahian emphasized that “Tehran believes the current crisis has a political solution and can be resolved through true and sincere dialogue.”

Bahrain has been gripped by tension since 2011 protests led by majority Shiite Muslims demanding reforms and a bigger role in running the Sunni-ruled country. A national dialogue process intended to find a solution to the crisis is currently at an impasse. The opposition has accused the ruling Al Khalifa family of seeking to retain all powers.