Ibrahim Sharif, the Secretary General of the National Democratic Action Society (WAAD), a Bahraini leftist political party, was arrested on July 11 a mere three weeks after his release from a sentence government critics say was politically motivated.
According to WAAD's statement, several police cars surrounded Sharif's house at 2:30 am and took him to Muharraq police station.
Bahrain's Ministry of Interior (MOI) announced officially via Twitter:
Ebrahim Sharif detained for violating the law
— Ministry of Interior (@moi_bahrain) July 12, 2015
Ibrahim Sharif was previously arrested in 2011, during the pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain for his central role in mobilising protests against the Bahraini government.
He was in prison until June 20 when he was released having served four years and three months of a five-year sentence.
Authorities began their interrogation of Sharif early this morning without allowing his lawyer to be present. Sharif was charged with inciting hatred against the regime, and is being held for 48 hours pending further investigation.
A speech authorities ‘could not handle’
Activists and lawyers believe the charges against him are connected to a powerful speech he gave on the night of July 10, in which he emphasized that the demands of the opposition are purely national and denied allegations that the movement was sectarian in character. Sharif's speech came at a memorial service held July 10 for 16-year-old Hussam Alhaddad, who died from injuries in clashes with the police in Muharraq on August 17, 2012.
The son of a prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, Aadam Rajab wrote:
— Adam Rajab (@AdamNabeel) July 11, 2015
@lpdutchboy tweeted parts of Sharif's speech:
— lpdutchboy (@lpdutchboy) July 12, 2015
— lpdutchboy (@lpdutchboy) July 12, 2015
Sharif further stated that violence is a tactic of the state rather than the opposition and warned people against settling for the bare minimum when the government isn't serious about reforms.
He noted activists often face charges of inciting hatred against the regime, but added that the government incites hatred against itself by continuously practicing discrimination and marginalization against the country's majority Shia population.
Sharif wrapped up his speech saying there will be no political, social or economic progress without true reconciliation and genuine reforms.
Bahrain brushes aside EU concerns
The arrest comes one day after the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution calling for the release of all political prisoners in Bahrain and a ban on tear gas and crowd-control equipment until a proper investigation is conducted “into their improper use and until the perpetrators of such improper use are held accountable.” The EP also called on the government to put an end to systematic human rights abuses in Bahrain. In its resolution, the EP also welcomed: “the early release from prison of opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif in June 2015 after he was given a royal pardon; believes this decision to be a welcome and important step in the process of promoting trust and confidence in Bahrain.”
Human rights activist Mohammed Almaskati noted the timing of Sharif's arrest:
— Mohamed (@ghost8boy12) July 12, 2015
According to the European Parliament press release, the resolution was adopted by a significant majority. But Bahrain's government managed to see things differently:
— وكالة أنباء البحرين (@bna_ar) July 10, 2015
Foreign Ministry confirms: European Parliament resolution does not represent the opinion of the European Union due to low voting participation
Sharif's arrest was condemned by many on Twitter.
Alwefaq National Islamic Society tweeted:
— AlwefaqEN (@AlWefaqEN) July 12, 2015
Ahmed Alsaffar added a note on the one-sided approach of the Bahraini government:
— Ahmed Alsaffar (@Asaffar1984) July 12, 2015
Authorities say that Ibrahim Sharif violated the law!! There are many who broke the law but have not been arrested or had their homes surrounded by police.
Ali bin Jawad said Sharif's speech proved a tipping point for the government:
لم تتحمل السلطة النقد وقول الحقيقة والاشارة للجرح والافلاس فأعادتة خلف القضبان. #ابراهيم_شريف انت حر
— ali bin jawad (@alijjawad) July 12, 2015
The government could not handle criticism and the truth, and references to wounds and bankruptcy, so it put [Sharif] back behind bars. Ibrahim Sharif you are Free.
WAAD describes Sharif as:
A political leader with deep rooted nationalist ideologies and affiliations from the beginnings of his involvement in secret political work in the seventies.
There have been several reports of people demonstrating in Abu Saiba village, off the Budaiya Highway, condemning the arrest of Sharif and demanding his immediate release.
Activist Hassan Al Sharqi shares photographs from the protest calling for Sharif's release:
— حسن الشارقي (@Hassan_Alsharqi) July 12, 2015
For more reactions and updates check out our coverage at Global Voices Checkdesk.
The #FreeSharif hashtag is also active on Twitter.