SALAM: We condemn the verdict against Sheikh Isa Qasim and the criminalization and confiscation of the religious rights of the Shiite citizens of Bahrain

SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights expresses its deep concern over the court sentence against Bahrain’s religious leader Sheikh Isa Qasim. The court ordered a one year imprisonment with a suspended sentence and a fine of one hundred thousand Bahraini dinars as well as the confiscation of “Khums- a Shia annual religious practice of donating money” funds and properties inhabited by religious sciences students in the Islamic Awareness Institution, which authorities in Bahrain had resolved previously.
The Supreme Criminal Court, headed by Judge Ali Al-Dhahrani, ruled on Sunday May 21, 2017 for a one-year prison sentence against Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qasim, where it also ordered a three years prison sentence against the religious cleric Hussein Al-Qasab and the director of Qasim’s office Mirza Al-Darazi. The court issued its verdict for the case related to (collection of “Khums” funds), classified by the Public Prosecution as (collecting funds without authorization).
The court ordered a fine of 100,000 Bahraini Dinars for each defendant in the case, along with the confiscation of the amount deposited in the account of Ayatollah Qasim of 3,367,301 Bahraini Dinars and the confiscation of two of his registered properties. As for the second charge brought against the three defendant, “collecting money without obtaining a license”, the court ordered a fine of 1,000 Bahraini Dinars for each defendant in the case.

Whereas the village of Diraz, the birthplace of Sheikh Isa Qasim and his place of residence, has been under a security siege since June 2016. The citizens are subjected to flagrant violations of freedom of movement, insults and ill-treatment at checkpoints. Beside the disruptions of citizens’ interests in Diraz and its commercial markets, the Internet connection is widely disrupted and cut at the evening times for nearly a year now. See link: Http://
On June 20, 2016, the Ministry of the Interior issued a statement declaring the nationality revocation of the religious leader Sheikh Isa Qasim. The Ministry backed its declaration by Article 10 / C of the Bahraini Nationality Law “if a person harms the Kingdom’s interests or acts in contrary to his he duty of allegiance to it” in order to justify its decision to withdraw Qasim’s nationality.
Sheikh Qasim is the religious and spiritual leader of the Shia citizens in Bahrain. He has been a prominent leader in the introduction of democratic reforms in the country since the 1970s. In 1973, he became a member of the first Bahraini parliament with the highest percentage of votes. Qasim also contributed to the drafting of the Bahraini constitution in 1973.
Meanwhile it is noteworthy that the Bahraini Shiites are being persecuted by policies implemented by their government, as patterns of persecution are conducted at several levels, both affecting their political and religious rights.
In previous times, a number of United Nations’ experts issued a joint statement calling the government of Bahrain on Tuesday, 16th of August 2016, to stop systematic harassment of Bahraini citizens, including the revocation of the nationality of a number of them, stating it is “a matter of deep concern”. Where indeed five UN Special Rapporteurs have agreed that summoning, questioning and criminalizing a group of clerics, religious singers, human rights defenders and peaceful dissidents has a negative impact on the human rights situation in Bahrain.
SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights believes that the criminalization of “Khums” constitutes a flagrant violation of article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Bahrain before the Human Rights Council. A covenant which states “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This includes freedom to follow any religion or belief of one’s choice, freedom to manifest oen’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and education, individually or collectively, and in public or in private”.
Therefore, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights calls on the Bahraini authorities to:
1. Drop all charges against Sheikh Isa Qasim, Hussein Al-Qasab and Mirza Al-Darazi;
2. Immediately and unconditionally return the revoked nationality of Sheikh Isa Qasim and all those who have been stripped of their nationality for politically motivated reasons since 2012;
3. End the use of nationality revocation for punishing the political opposition;
4. Stop targeting the freedom of Shiite clerics in practicing their religious rites and freedom of expression;
5. Allow the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Belief to visit Bahrain;
6. Lift the siege on Diraz area.