WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States on Wednesday condemned the detention of Bahrain’s opposition leader for seeking to change the regime by force, without however calling for his release.
Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Shiite movement Al-Wefaq, was charged on Monday by authorities in the tiny Sunni-ruled nation, where the opposition boycotted a November parliamentary election that it dismissed as a farce.
“We are deeply concerned by the detention and ongoing questioning of Bahraini opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman,” said Jeff Rathke, a State Department spokesman.
“We are concerned that this action against a senior leader of the opposition will only inflame tensions.”
The prosecution said Tuesday the cleric would remain in custody for seven days pending further investigation.
A day earlier, it had indicated that Salman, 49, was charged with “promoting regime change by force, threats and illegal means and of insulting the interior ministry publicly.”
“We strongly urge the government of Bahrain to follow due process in this and all cases and abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings conducted in full accordance with Bahraini law and Bahrain’s international legal obligations,” Rathke said.
“We also call on all parties to avoid escalatory actions and to employ public rhetoric that clearly and unambiguously rejects all forms of violence.”
Bahrain has been gripped by sporadic violence since the authorities crushed month-long pro-democracy protests led by Al-Wefaq in 2011.
At least 89 people have been killed since then in clashes with security forces, and hundreds arrested and put on trial, human rights groups say.