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How one Bahraini man's work on countering hatred got him arrested for hate speech

Sheikh Maytham Al Salman is an international spokesperson and activist for human rights
Sheikh Maytham Al Salman is an international spokesperson and activist for human rights

This statement was originally published on on 10 August 2015.

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its concern at the continuing policy of targeting human rights defenders. Police officers at the Bahrain International Airport arrested human rights activist Sheikh Maytham al-Salman on Saturday as he returned from visiting a number of countries in North Africa.

Salman works with the Mashreq-Maghreb Coalition to Counter Hatred, whose headquarters is in Tunisia. His trip had included meetings with the UN High Commission for Human Rights.

Salman's family reports that Sheikh Salman was scheduled to arrive in Bahrain at 08:40 AM on Saturday, but that they did not hear anything from him until 11:20 AM, when they received a 30-second telephone call from him. His family learned that he had been arrested by the airport police and transferred to the electronic crimes unit of the Prosecution General headquarters, due to an arrest warrant issued against him on 31 July.

It should be mentioned that Salman is an international spokesperson and activist for human rights, particularly in relation to anti-extremism, anti-violence and strengthening positive relations between cultures and religions. Salman has taken part in a number of human rights conferences, as well as meetings with the UN Human Rights Council, including their most recent sitting in June 2015. The delegation taking part in the UN Human Rights Council has previously been subject to threats from one of the participants who was representing the government, the MP Khalid al-Shair. Shair had threatened to target the delegates' relatives, and to take the summary of their discussions to the Prosecutor General.

Nor is this the first time Sheikh Salman has been detained – on 19 March 2011 Salman was arrested after returning from an exhibition in Leipzig, Germany.

Salman has spoken to BCHR about the investigation launched against him, which centres on his comments to a media outlet that were published online about his fear that the authorities could use collective punishment in Sitra. He stands accused of provoking hatred against the regime, and spreading false news.

BCHR is concerned that the arrest of Maytham Salman comes as part of a policy of targeting human rights defenders and restricting their activities to stop them working freely and prevent them from publishing information about human rights violations.

Based on the above, BCHR calls on Bahrain's allies and international organisations to put pressure on the Bahraini government to do the following:

• Drop all charges levelled against Sheikh Maytham al-Salman and allow him to continue his work on a local and international level to enhance tolerance and fight extremism, violence and hatred.
• Put a stop to all forms of restrictions that threaten freedom of expression and opinion in Bahrain.
• Guarantee respect for human rights and basic freedoms according to international standards for human rights.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Bahrain: Charges against Maytham Al Salman must be dropped

    It is thought that he was arrested as a result of recent tweets which promoted equality and non-discrimination, criticising hate speech between Sunnis and Shi’as, in addition to comments during an interview in which he expressed fears that the government could resort to collective punishment in Sitra, a predominantly Shi’a area which has been at the centre of clashes between protesters and security forces.

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