Bahrain: Ibrahim Sharif sentenced to one year in prison for 2015 speech

A Bahraini court sentenced Ibrahim Sharif, former secretary-general of the secular, left-wing National Democratic Action Society, on 24 February to a year in prison over a speech made in 2015 calling for change in the kingdom.

Sharif was convicted on a charge of inciting hatred while acquitted on charges of promoting the toppling of Bahrain’s government.

Sharif’s lawyer, Sami Syadi, said he plans to appeal the ruling, and that he believed the time his client had already served would count toward his sentence.

Sharif was first sentenced to five years in prison in 2011. While in prison, he was tortured, held in solitary confinement for 56 days, and wasn’t allowed to contact his family or lawyer. He served four years and three months before being released on a royal pardon on 19 June 2015.

A month after his release, he made a speech in July during the annual commemoration of the killing of 16-year-old Hussam al­Haddad by security forces in 2012. In it, he criticised the government for using violence to put down demonstrators, who were engaged in peaceful protests.

“In our case, there is no going back to building a wall of fear,” he said. “The government is only strong when we are cowards and is weak when we are courageous.”

He was subsequently re-arrested for the speech and spent seven months in custody before yesterday’s sentence.

Speaking to Index on Censorship before the ruling, his wife Farida Ghulam said: “Unfortunately, based on the last seven months of trials, it seems that the government is unwilling to entertain the basic right of freedom of speech and that Ebrahim may be sentenced again”

Index on Censorship calls for the immediate release of Ibrahim Sharif. His wife has previously written about the family’s ordeal in Index on Censorship, here and here.