Ebrahim Sharif’s Statement – Court of Appeals- Bahrain, June 5, 2012

Ebrahim Sharif Al-Sayed’s Statement
Opening Argument for the Court of Appeals
5th of June, 2012

 

 

Table of Contents

A Trial Against Ideas. 2

The Causes of the Political Crisis. 3

An Ethical Stance Against Violence. 5

A Charge of Violence to Suppress Opposition and Exclude It. 7

Malicious Charges. 7

First: Responding To the Charge of Overthrowing the Regime by Force. 10

Second: The Charge of Inciting Hatred and Contempt of the Governing Regime  12

Third:  The Charge of Broadcasting and Disseminating Fabricated News and Falsified Rumors. 15

Fourth:  The Charge of Insulting the Army.. 17

I thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak before this esteemed court, after having been deprived of the right to defend ourselves in front of the two National Safety courts and despite of the gravity of the charges that we have been accused of and their vast contrast to the truth – the truth that this articulate prosecution and claim could not hide; a claim that depended originally on statements extracted under torture or statements based on “secret sources” fabricated by the National Security Agency that has been exposed following the publication of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report (“Bassiouni Commission”); a claim that was formulated only to pass readily made convictions prepared in advance.

A Trial Against Ideas

This trial, gentlemen, has been from the very beginning an attempt to try ideas and navigate intentions. To prove the charges against me, the prosecution quickly piled a number of quotes it has attributed to me such as “there is no legitimacy for a regime that kills its people” and “the 2002 constitution has no legitimacy” and “the regime lacks legitimacy” or “the regime has lost its legitimacy” and “the Bahrain army is not nationalistic” and “the ruling family is an invader” and that it “seizes the wealth of the country” and that I “prefer the Republic system” and that I called for “the fall of representative councils.” Despite the availability of a large number of visual and audio recordings of me, in addition to my own writings during the popular movement that began from the 14th of February and before, the prosecution has failed to provide one shred of evidence that proves that I called for the use of violence or worked to topple the regime by force.

Ideas, gentlemen, cannot be assassinated or arrested, and they cannot be defeated in this court or any other tribunal of the State. The only court that can try these ideas is the court of public opinion, and the sentence issued by the courts of public opinion are either the verdict of the defeat of this idea and consequently its eradication, or the verdict of its innocence and consequently its prevalence.

The Causes of the Political Crisis

We are here today not because of what happened on the 14th of February. That remarkable day in the history of Bahrain was only the result of a decade long critical failure of the political system after it seemingly passed its earlier grave era. This day was indeed the result of a crisis that lasted more than two and a half decades since the dissolution of the elected National Assembly in 1975. In February 2011, Bahraini citizens’ hopes were high after the opposition and the regime agreed to turn a new page with the National Action Charter, based on which the King pledged a number of commitments regarding the preservation of the Constitution of 1973, the return to parliamentary life and the move towards a higher democratic process by proposing the concept of a “Constitutional Monarchy similar to prestigious democracies.” The regime, however, quickly backed out on its commitments and reneged its promises, issuing a new constitution in 2002 through an individualistic royal decree, the results of which included expanding the executive authorities of the King, establishing an appointed Shura Council and injecting a number of constitutional amendments that all came at the expense of the people’s power and the authority of their elected council. Since that date and the regime, through legislation or alteration of common practice, has been recoiling the limited reforms that took place the year of the Charter, especially within the realm of public liberties, rebuilding the security state through its various specialized organizations monitor, blockade and punish opposition.

The years of political tension, the absence of true popular participation and rampant corruption among the ruling elite has pushed this country to the brink of a crisis that was waiting for a spark from the Arab Spring countries to transform into an overwhelmingly popular uprising. This uprising was led by a youth dreaming of freedom and dignity and believing in sacrifice and peaceful protest that forces the regime to respect the will of its people. The “Bassiouni Committee” recognized in its report in paragraph (642) that the movement’s “demand was for reforms, not for regime change” at the beginning, and it added, “when demands for reforms are rebuffed, the demands become for regime change.”

Bahrain was awaiting this moment of enormous eruption. The authority thought that its media propaganda machine, supported by a system that distributes benefits to a new political class formed by pro-government organizations, parliamentary and municipal representatives and bureaucratic expansion of government entities, in addition to coaxing former opponents to promote its policies, dividing society within sectarian lines and, most importantly, enhancing its own security and intelligence capabilities, could all prevent a plausible Bahraini Spring. However, and to the dismay of the authorities, the political and social build-up on the ground was far greater than what the regime has amassed to confront a popular uprising. The regime missed the fact that indeed it was the biggest cause and instigator of this revolution, the evidence of which is vast, such as:

  • The growing frustration among citizens, especially the Shia, about the rapid growth of political naturalization that targets a demographic change, and about the continued discrimination against citizens on sectarian basis – shutting employment opportunities in the military sector against the Shia community.
  • The distribution of public lands among the ruling elite, turning them into private estates of senior ruling family members and their allies.
  • The dissemination of corruption within government entities and the inability of the National Audit Court to curb it despite the numerous violations it records every year in its annual report, and its inability to hold senior violators accountable, particularly those of the ruling family – as was evident in the corruption case of Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) filed in the United States and involving the American company Alcoa, that included the corrupt agreements eventually costing Alba losses of about 1 billion dollars.

We should be proud to see that our youth has not ceased to dream of a day more beautiful than this day, and a system better than this system, and a governance better than this governance.

In its inspiration of the Arab Spring revolutions, our youth proved its connection to the Arab nation and its determination to pursue the route of peaceful protest to force the regime into comprehensive reform. Instead of shoving them in jails and detention centers, the authority ought to have dialogued with this Bahraini youth who continued its peaceful approach despite the authority use of arms.

An Ethical Stance Against Violence

Aside from the fact that the charges are not based on any factual evidence nor actions nor statements that I or my organization “Waad” has made, these charges put forward by the prosecution came without proof, and the verdicts that convicted me in both National Safety Courts were without reason. These charges were mentioned in the first paragraph of the bullet point “Sixthly” in my indictment, claiming that I promoted the overthrow and change of the regime by force and through my writings, speeches and statements. These charges are unfounded and baseless. They are simply not aligned to my stance nor to that of the organization I belong to.

Allow me to clarify to you here my position and the position of “Waad” that is based on the principle of rejecting the use of violence and force as an engine for political date. I believe that the means should be of the nature of the goals. If some group’s goal was to seize power in order to establish an authoritarian totalitarian rule, then surely the means to achieving this would be of the nature of its goal – violence and force and bloodshed because everything has become permissible. That group would believe that “the end justifies the means.”

However, if the goal was democratic transformation then the natural mean would be to resort to peaceful popular will, either through the ballot or, if unavailable, through peaceful protests and perhaps civil disobedience.

Advocates of such approach – and I am one of them – consider it forbidden to resort to arms or use violence and force, which all lead to severe damage to the cause and its defenders. When the Mahatma Ghandi was struggling against racial discrimination in South Africa, he told his supporters, “I am ready to die for many causes, but, my friends, there is not one cause that deserves killing for.” This is how our political movement and uprising should be.

From a practical point of view, I do not need to spend much effort to prove that change through force is infeasible – if there was someone in the first place promoting this route – simply because there is a large imbalance of militaristic power between an unarmed population that does not own one piece of weaponry and a government with its allies who are heavily armed and backed by regional powers ready to swiftly intervene within only a few hours.

I can be certain that whoever benefits from violence is the ruling regime because it can, through it, drag opposition away from the battle of values and ideas, where opposition excels, towards the battle of arms and force where the regime excels. When the two sides use force and violence to impose each one’s own will, then the ethical and moral values begin to almost disappear. Through our peaceful methods, it becomes difficult to stray the attention of the international peace forces of human rights institutions away from the justice of our cause – this attention that serves as a moral boost that our people constantly need in their struggle for a democratic, just state. Violence is a culture that raises tyrants. It is a destructive culture to societies should the people and the political opposition adopt it.

A Charge of Violence to Suppress Opposition and Exclude It

Our political history has witnessed many cases in which the ruling authorities have used the allegation of violence to suppress the opposition and exclude it. In 1956, the leaders of the National Union Committee – Abdulrahman Albaker and his companions – were sued based on the charges of “attempting to assassinate the ruler” and “attempting to blow up the Qudaibiya Palace and the Airport” and “introducing military organizations under the façade of a scouting organization, planted to overthrow the government” and “breaching security during demonstrations.” The already-made verdicts of imprisonment and exile to the British St. Helena islands were issued by a court headed by Sheikh Dueeij bin Hamad AlKhalifa. To his right and left were two other sheikhs of the same ruling family in conflict with the leaders of the Committee.

The history of Bahrain over the past decades proves beyond doubt that the main source of violence is the state through its security and military bodies, and sometimes through its tribal and commando militias. Through the acceptance of the “Bassiouni Commission” report, the state has partially acknowledged its responsibility of some of the violence against peaceful protestors and the murder of five citizens in its prisons. I also find it my duty to remind the prosecution and the esteemed court that the families of these victims continue to wait for justice and retribution against their tormentors, at a time when opposition faces false charges in courts and bear harsh verdicts because of their political opinions.

Malicious Charges

The charges were malicious from the very beginning, without basis or evidence to support them. They aimed at punishing me for the positions I have taken and the statements I have made throughout the past years. It is not surprising that a despotic regime uses all its bodies, intelligence and judicial system and security forces, to settle the score with its opponents. Usually, these systems have been more intelligent in fabricating, implanting and presenting evidence and witnesses to demonstrate the existence of a “conspiracy to overthrow the regime by force”. However, the inefficiency of these systems today and their haste to issue verdicts obsequious to  superior orders have done us the favor of proving the maliciousness of these charges from the beginning. Examples of this are many, including:

  • As recorded in the report of the Military Prosecutor on the 30th of April 2011, Major Sultan Issa Al-Sulaiti from the National Security Agency claimed that I, with others, have “provided material support necessary to carry out their criminal plans, thus taking advantage of ‘Khums’ money” (page 8); and that I, according to allegations by Al-Sulaiti himself, was among those who participated in the “attack on Sunni places of worship” (page 9); and that my goal is the “declaration of an Islamic republic in the country” (page 15); that I joined a group that “carries ideological thoughts of former groups, with aims and objectives of establishing a republic that follows Iran,”; and that I sought with others to “raise sectarian strife” (page 19), and “attack Sunni patients” (page 20); and that we announced the establishment of an “Islamic Republic” (page 21) and that we believe in the “Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists [Velayet-e faqih] as a principle of political governance” – all these according to Major Sultan Issa Al-Sulaiti himself.

Doesn’t this National Security Agency Major know that such claims about a person known for his affiliation with a secular, liberal, opposition political thought that disputes the idea of a religious state, not to mention that this person is a son of the Sunni community, would provoke laughter as much as pity at such low professional standards among the NSA and its rush to invent charges that no sane person can believe?

  • Is it possible that such a dangerous person as alleged and portrayed by Maj. Al-Sulaiti would not have his home, personal computer, library full of political files, statements, stances and writings inspected? The reality is that my house was not searched for anything. As a matter of fact, security men did not even come close to the door of my house, and indeed allowed me to empty in my pockets to my wife before the arrest without any inspection!
  • The complicity of the Military Prosecution with the NSA regarding torture and extracting confessions was evident in all phases to the 10th of June 2012. The Military Prosecution did not allow me to meet privately with my lawyer during the two investigation sessions, and did not allow me to meet with him until after the commencement of trial on the 8th of May 2011 (51 days after my arrest). Each investigation session with the Military Persecution was preceded and followed by a session of torture, despite the fact that I informed the Prosecution about it.

The Prosecution officers were aware of the repeated visits we got of masked torturers who tortured us and mistreated us. They were aware that we were kept in solitary confinement under their responsibility. We were beaten and insulted on the premises of Military Prosecution and the Military Justice. In the reference order, the Military Prosecution officers did not hesitate to forge our statements at the Prosecution, attributing “confessions” to myself and other detainees that none of the inference minutes nor prosecution investigations had any support for.

  • Following the same approach, Judge of the First Instance Court of the National Safety, Mansoor Al-Mansoor, and the Judge of Appeals, Samir Al-Zayani, both condemned us with verdicts that added to more than 362 years imprisonment after court sessions that did not last for more than a few hours, where the lawyers could not deliver their arguments verbally nor present all witnesses, nor allowing any of the defendants to speak a single minute about the torture they had suffered. In the Military Justice building, all defendants were beaten after the court verdict issues against them on the 22th of June 2011 because they had chanted during the session.

Allow me now, gentlemen, to refute the charges made against me ​​by the Military Prosecutor and later the Public Prosecutor:

First: Responding To the Charge of Overthrowing the Regime by Force

To begin with, I am a son of the nationalist Arab movement that overthrew the backward regimes associated with colonialism, and I find that my natural instinct pushes me towards hating titles and hereditary privileges. However, nationalistic political work is not based on what we like or prefer, rather on what most benefits people and protects their interests. This is why I called for establishing the basis of a democratic constitutional monarchy, considering it the best option for the country, taking into account the local and regional circumstances, the high political costs and the uncertainty of the future with the current state of a quasi-absolute monarchy continues compared to ending the monarchy and moving towards a republican system.

Although my position is in favour of a monarchy, should it meet the full requirements of a democracy, I do respect the other opinion that calls for a republican regime, considering it an opinion that its owners are entitled to have, which also happens to be the opinion of most human beings and the Arab world in any case where republics exist. In countries that transformed from a monarchy to a republic, there are those who call for the return to the monarchy, just as there are also those who call for a republican regime in countries governed by monarchic families. I have not heard of a single democratic country that criminalizes carrying such ideas. On the 26th of May 2012, Al-Bilad newspaper published the results of a poll that showed that 22% of Britons reject the monarchic system in the UK. If the Public Prosecution there acted like our prosecution here, it would have had accused or convicted 14 million people with charges of overthrowing the regime.

My support for the monarchy is conditional to the principle that “the people [are] the source of all powers”, which implies the completion of a full democratic transition that ends with the presence of a king without any executive powers; a “king who reigns but does not rule”. During the February 14th uprising, I called on citizens to choose slogans that demand a comprehensive system reform without changing the system of the hereditary monarchy. I fear, however, that the regime’s continuing intransigence and rejection of democratic reform will reduce the number of supporters of a continuing monarchy and instead push people to believe that this system is “not fit and cannot be fixed.”

The matter of overthrowing the regime was, therefore, not proposed by me just as the idea of using force to resolve political (and non-political) disputes was a taboo that incompatible with my political belief, as I have stated previously. If the Prosecution is indeed searching for a someone to charge with overthrowing the regime by force, then I would like to refer them to two successful attempts to investigate. The first attempt took place in August 1975, through the issue of Amiri Order No. (4) that suspended the script of Article (65) of the Constitution and effectively and transferred full legislative powers to the Prince and Prime Minister for 27 years. The second attempt was in February 2002 when the King retracted his pledges, including what was stated by the President of the Supreme Commission of the National Action Charter, Shaikh Abdullah bin Khalid Al-Khalifa, with the blessing of the King after his meeting with a group of opposition, published on the 9th of February 2001 as the front headline on the first pages of all local newspapers with the title “The Parliament will be assigned the state’s legislative functions, and the appointed Council’s task is advice and opinion only“. The Prosecution can –if dared to perform its duties as it should- bring charges against those of these two coups based on Bahrain’s Penal Code Article (148) that states: “Life or term imprisonment shall be the penalty for any person who attempts with the use of force to overthrow or change the country’s Constitution.”

Second: The Charge of Inciting Hatred and Contempt of the Governing Regime

Before beginning to refute this charge, it is worth mentioning that the “Bassiouni Commission” report concluded in paragraph (1281) that Article (165) from the Penal Code, under which this charge falls, was “applied in a way that infringes upon the freedoms of opinion and expression by excluding from the public debate opinions that express opposition to the existing system of government in Bahrain, as well as opinions that call for any peaceful change in the structure or system of government or for regime change.”

Then paragraph (1284) added that “Articles 165, 168 and 169 of the Penal Code also restrict opinion and expression by criminalising incitement to hatred towards the regime or damaging public interest, without requiring any material act that causes social or individual harm. They have been applied to repress legitimate criticism of the GoB.”

In paragraph (1921) the “Bassiouni Commission” recommended that “all persons charged with offences involving political expression, not consisting of advocacy of violence.” According to paragraph (1285) of the report, the Commission has informed the Bahraini government of these views, and in footnote (629) added it has received confirmation that “the GoB dropped the charges under these Articles against the 14 top political opposition figures convicted by the National Safety Courts,” in reference to the accused in this group. It is not understood by us why the Prosecution continues to hold on to these charges after the Government pledged to drop them, nor why it insists on wasting this esteemed Court’s time, state funds and the harming the credibility and reputation of the officials who issued pledges to the “Bassiouni Commission”.

I do not know which of the words attributed to me are related to the charges of hatred and contempt according to Penal Code Article (165), but I assume that the reference is audio recordings the Prosecution attributed to me accusing “the ruling family of seizing wealth and excluding other, considering it an invader of the country, and emphasizing that the regime has lost its legitimacy” as mentioned on the page (25) of the committal order.

As you can see, all these charges relate to freedom of opinion, though still not difficult to refute. First, it must be said that the charge of hatred and contempt of the regime –if found- do not need an instigator from the opposition, as the regime’s actions are the biggest instigator. In my life, I have never heard of any citizen who does not hate injustice or disdain rampant corruption in government entities. Our people are highly educated and cultured; they listen and they read the reports of the National Audit Court and Parliamentary committees, and they know about the investigations into reclaimed land and public properties. They know about the 65sqm of public land and coastlines that have been stolen, as documented by the special Parliamentary commission of inquiry. They hear about the Shaikh accused in the $1 billion scandal, brought to US courts by Alba against Alco and its partners in a case of fraud and corruption. They can list the names of all the heroes of state property scandals and their projects in the Bahrain Financial Harbour, Tubli Bay, Bahrain Bay, Diyar Al-Muharraq, Riffa Views, and countless lands that are worth over tens of billions of dollars. And our people know fully well the policies of discrimination, privileges and political naturalization.

As for the ruling family acts of invasion throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, one should read history through the historical sequence of events.

The acts of piracy, invasion and slavery were common back in the time, practiced vivaciously by numerous Arab tribes and were not considered inglorious nor infamous. This is an undeniable fact historically recorded. In Article (1) of the perpetual friendship agreement that placed the country under the British mandate, signed in 1861 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, the ruler of Bahrain then, clearly manifested that “Bahraini sheikhs shall refrain from all acts of hostility and practices of piracy at sea”. This is a declaration made by a Bahraini ruler himself testifying that “Piracy” was committed then. As for the term “Invasion” that was attributed to me, it was an unbiased one similar to the word “war” and does not convey any moral connotation, for an invasion could be have by many purposes such as: defense, religious crusade, or any act pertaining to piracy, highway banditry and assault. The purpose was not to slander the ruling family as much as it was a warning that this age is not an age of invasions and associated mindsets of “booty” that is historically connected to invasions. Alas, some members of the ruling family continue to hold this notion to date – that Bahrain has been and still is a war booty that was “gained with the sword”, therefore the distribution of property, land, authority and resources is mainly done among the sons of the victorious tribe and its allies. Instigation here – if existed – is not against a family that has become an integral part of this country’s social canvas; instigation is against a mindset that should have perished long ago.

However, I do not see any relevance between the statement attributed to me about the “invasion” and “fortune tyranny” of the ruling family and Article (165) of the Penal Code, unless the Public Prosecution considers “the regime” and the “Ruling Family” as one, which has not been explicitly disclosed and cannot be supported by the constitution or the Law, despite the fact that it is the reality of the current situation that we see through common practices. The Public Prosecution has not informed me of any existing complaints by one or more members of the ruling family regarding the statements attributed to me. If any such complaint does exist, still, this Article cannot be enforced to charge me with “instigation and degradation” of the regime.

As for what has been attributed to me about “a regime that has lost its legitimacy”, the Public Prosecution has only shown half the truth and hidden the other half. Before I explain my stance on “the legitimacy of the regime”, I emphasize that stating whether the regime is legitimate or not falls under the liberties of “freedom of speech” which cannot be obscured for any reason. As for this specific issue, I uphold the principle that says that a democratic system derives its legitimacy from its citizens because “people are the source of all powers”, as confirmed in the first Article of the Constitution.

If the majority of the population has lost confidence in the regime, then its legitimacy has been compromised and the discussion of “delegitimization” or “lost legitimacy” would innate. Any democratic government in the world renews its legitimacy every 4 years, plus or minus, and there exists no government that maintains its legitimacy over 40 years without an election or renewal of the populace authorization, as we see in our country. No legitimate government of a democratic country in the world has continued ruling without periodic elections.

Third:  The Charge of Broadcasting and Disseminating Fabricated News and Falsified Rumors

The Public Prosecution mentioned in its indictment the charge of broadcasting and disseminating false and malicious news and rumors about sectarian discrimination in the country, and about the authorities’ loss of control of the situation and about the illegal practices it has used.

We can all refer to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report to prove that the statement regarding the use of illegal practices and the government’s loss of control of situation is a known fact acknowledged by the regime itself through its acceptance of the report’s recommendations. Despite this, the Public Prosecution did not prove how such political statements could have led to the “disturbance of security” or “the spread of fear among people” or “harming the general interest” – the proof of all of which is a key condition to the implement the loose text of Article (168) of the Penal Code, which the “Bassiouni Committee” considered as articles “applied to repress legitimate criticism of the GoB.”

As for the other aspect of the charge regarding sectarian discrimination practices in the country, I can, in addition to the numerous international reports in this respect, lay out the following facts before this esteemed Court, to prove the systematic discrimination against the Shia in government and the public sector.

  1. The Cabinet of Ministers: Shia constitute around 24% of the members of the Cabinet, whereas the ruling family makes up 40% and the Sunnis (aside from the ruling family) constitute 36%. (Refer to attached Table 1)
  2. The Ministry of Interior: Shia constitute 10% of the high-ranking positions, whereas members of the ruling family makes 35% and Sunnis (not Al-Khalifas) constitute 55%. (Refer to attached Table 2)
  3. Ministry of Defense: there is not one high-ranking Shiite (brigade or higher), whereas members of the ruling family constitute half of the positions and other Sunnis (not from the ruling family) make up the other half. (Refer to attached Table 3)
  4. Supreme Defense Council: no Shiite sits in the Council while members of the ruling family take 13 of its 14 seats. (Refer to attached Table 3)
  5. Government agencies, institutions and bodies: Shia do not constitute more than 5% of their leadership, whereas members of the ruling family make up 30% and Sunnis (not Al-Khalifas) constitute 65%. (Refer to attached Table 4)
  6. State-owned and semi government enterprises: once again, Shia do not represent more than 8% of the leadership, whereas non-Bahrainis make up 19%, members of the ruling family make up 27% and Sunnis (not Al-Khalifas) make up 46%. (Refer to attached table 5)
  7. Judicial and legal bodies: there is no representation of Shia in any of the upper judicial or legal institutions, whereas members of the ruling family make up 33% and Sunnis (not Al-Khalifas) make up 58% and non-Bahrainis 9%. (Refer to attached Table 6)
  8. General managers of municipalities: Shia make up 20%, while members of the ruling family and Sunnis split the remaining, 40% each. (Refer to attached Table 7)

These figures are outrageous and disgraceful at the same time because this strict sectarian division did not exist in such a way three decades ago. They are indicative of a systemic method of discrimination and marginalization against the Shia, who constitute no less than 50% of the population – a method that is often in the interest of the ruling family who occupies a much larger number of high-ranking posts compared to Shia, despite the fact that the family does not constitute more than what could be half a percent of the population. What all the citizens call for, and what the Shia youth that started the uprising of February 14th call for, is the equal citizenship that is the foundation of any democratic society.

Fourth:  The Charge of Insulting the Army

The issue of sectarianism and discrimination takes me to what has been attributed to me about describing the army as unpatriotic. Once again, the Prosecution takes my words out of context. The discussion, during one of the forums, was about not relying on the neutrality of the army in any internal political conflict, and that the Bahraini army will behave like its counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt. As for the reason behind this statement, I explained it in the forum by saying that the current composition of the army, as shown by the statistics of Table (3), is devoid of any Shia representation, whereas the ruling family makes up 50% of the high-ranking posts. This composition makes it difficult for us to envision a change in the army’s stance, or that it stands neutrally in the interest of the people when it comes to any conflict between the people and the ruling family. Therefore, I concluded that the composition of the army in its current state is “un-national”, in the sense that it lacks the representation of the Shia who make up more than 50% of the Bahraini population. As for the Supreme Defense Council that is in charge of defensive, strategic and security-related policies, it is almost fully composed of the ruling family – as if it is a council for the defense of the ruling family, not the country. Add to all of this the large number of foreigners in the army and within the security forces, which the Minister of Interior admitted a few years ago that they make up about 50% of his ministry, in violation of Article (16) of the Constitution, which states that “public offices shall be a national service,” and that “aliens may not hold public offices except in the cases specified by the law.” When Bahrainis are refused entry into the Bahrain Defense Force because of their sectarian affiliation, and instead foreigners are preferred more than them, these Bahrainis have the right to consider the army unrepresentative of them, meaning that it is an un-nationalistic army for at least half of the population.

Everything that I have said in public forums and all the press statements that I have made during the last period that lead to my arrest, came out of my concern for the public good – the public good that is based on restoring civil peace and social stability through the guarantee of freedom, justice and equal citizenship within the Bahraini society, and subsequently beginning the construction of a civil democratic state. Without these principles that bind humanity together, we will not be able to alleviate the injustice that some of our people see, and we will not be able to accomplish the type of sustainable development that would put our country in line with the democratic countries that respect human rights and practice democracy in its every day.

The way out of this political, constitutional crisis sweeping through this country must involve a serious and meaningful dialogue between the regime and the political opposition, conditional to the government’s serious implementation of the promises it has committed itself to since February of 2001 in terms of the legislative and oversight powers that the elected council must have, powers incomparable to those of the appointed council that is designated for advice and opinion only; and in terms of moving towards a system of constitutional monarchy similar to those seen in prestigious democracies. The regime must also  fulfill its commitment to the recommendations of the BICI report with precise, genuine and honest implementation, and implement the recommendations of the UN Council for Human Rights that were announced in the meeting held on the 10th of May 2012, in addition to initiating transitional justice based on fairness, openness and national reconciliation by compensating torture victims, arbitrary detention victims, and victims of the hundreds of verdicts issued against citizens, political and human rights activists, and the reinstatement of all employees to the same posts they held prior to their arbitrary dismissal and compensating them for the time that has passed throughout.

The way out of this political crisis also includes fair electoral district lines that reflect the principle of “equal voice to every citizen” in various areas, translated into a just electoral system that simulates all components of the Bahraini society, political, sectarian or ethnic, and that translates also into an elected government representing the will of the people, an independent and impartial judiciary system, and finally guaranteeing the security and safety of every person with a patriotic goal that is based the fact that national security is the security of every national.

Gentlemen, we stand before you today after suffering and struggle that lasted more than 14 months, believing within ourselves that simply “one cannot give what it has lost”, and that a justice system that does not know justice cannot apply it. We know the outcome of this test between true justice that triumphs for the oppressed, even if weak, and the artificial justice that triumphs for the strong, even if oppressive.

They can detain us, but they cannot arrest our dream… a dream of freedom for our people and dignity for our family.

Thank you for listening.

Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatu Allah wa Barakatuh

 

Ebrahim Sharif Al-Sayed

Prisoner of Conscience   

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