We write on the occasion of the postpone of the trial of Sheikh Isa Qassim to urge you again to press the government of Bahrain to drop all charges against him and immediately restore his citizenship that has been discretionally confiscated.
As we informed you earlier, his trial was scheduled on 7 May 2017. Nonetheless, the high criminal court of Bahrain postponed it again to 21 May.
Sheikh Isa Qassim is the highest religious authority of Shia population in Bahrain and the spiritual leader of al-Wefaq, the largest opposition group that has been arbitrarily banned since September 2016.
In June 2016, the government of Bahrain charged Sheikh Qassim of ‘money laundering,’ including illegal collection of donations and their misappropriation to provoke sectarianism and violence. The funds in question revolvearound the religious tax, commonly called khums. an annual payment made by Shia Muslims to assist the poor and needy families. As part of the wide and aggressive measures against the political and religious majority of Bahrain, the authorities immediately pushed ahead with the unlawful nationality revocation of Sheikh Isa Qassim, rendering him into statelessness.
No legal procedure was carried out, and the trial has been postponed by the authorities for several times. This has only offered the regime a pretext to repress the opposition and conduct a harsh crackdown on ongoing peacefulprotests in Duraz area against the government’s aggressive political and security measures against the religious leader.
By criminalising religious practice, the Bahraini authorities not only victimise the religious leader by a political conspiracy, but also violate the legitimate rights to freedom of religion and assembly of the majority Shiacitizens of Bahrain.
With the trial of Sheikh Isa Qassim ahead, we ask you to urge the government of Bahrain to implement the following:
• End harassment of Sheikh Isa Qassim by delaying due process and formality, and drop all pending charges against him for exercising his right to freedom of religion;
• Immediately and unconditionally restore citizenship to all those were unfairly stripped of their citizenship without due procedures of law;
• End the practice of revoking nationality as a method of reprisal against political opponents;
• Ratify the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons of 1954 and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness of 1961;
• Accept and allow the visits of the UN Special Rapporteurs to meet with those that have been victims of the stripping of nationality;
• Ensure united pressure directed at Bahrain through all legal means to rescind the arbitrary political measures that hinder freedom of peaceful assembly;
• Stop the siege of Duraz and retreat the military from the area;
• Implements the legal and policy changes needed to ensure the real promotion and protection of all human rights for all people in Bahrain, and to hold the government of Bahrain fully accountable if this does not take place in a prompt manner;
• Take genuine and tangible measures to create an environment conducive to all-inclusive national dialogue and begin reconciliation process in order toprevent unnecessary conflict and violence.
We thank you for the opportunity to present these views to you, and believe that you will consider these suggestions favourably for the people of Bahrain. We welcome any opportunity to assist you with any queries you may have with regard to these concerns.