After expressing concerns in his sermon about the maltreatment of detainees, Sheikh Muhammad Sanqour was taken into custody on Monday.
The arrest of a prominent Shia imam who demanded the release of political prisoners in the country has caused growing resentment in Bahrain.
The Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) called Muhammad Sanqour, a top imam at the Imam Sadiq Grand Mosque in the Diraz area, on Monday.
Several hours later, the interior ministry released a statement stating that his case had been forwarded to the Public Prosecution Office (OPP) due to “repeated inflammatory speeches that included legal violations” and “publicly inciting hatred and contempt for a group of people.”
The detention is thought to be related to remarks made last week at Friday prayers in which he expressed worry over the abuse of detainees in the kingdom’s jails, although they did not specifically mention this.
We urge the appropriate authorities to reassure the families of prisoners about their loved ones when it came to their attention that some inmates had experienced abuse and physical assault. During his lecture, he mentioned that some people had experienced isolation, solitary detention, and a lack of access to sufficient medical treatment.
“We also demand that all detainees be freed in order to address this humanitarian issue. It significantly contributes to promoting hope and reducing stress to close this chapter.
Since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, Bahrain has witnessed the widespread detention of pro-democracy protesters, politicians, and religious leaders.
Human rights advocates and foreign observers have repeatedly reported seeing abuse and mistreatment in Bahraini jails.
The government warned
The interior ministry issued a statement in which it issued a warning that the “clock cannot be turned back” in the kingdom and that “everyone must preserve the significant security and national gains that have been achieved.”.
Videos posted on Twitter by the Shia party Al-Wefaq, which prior to its dissolution by the government in 2016 was the biggest opposition force in Bahrain, appeared to show protests in front of Sanqour’s home.
“His objection in the Friday sermon to changing the school curricula to appease the Zionists” was the reason Sanquor was being targeted for persecution, al-Wefaq stated in the tweet.
After US-backed negotiations, Bahrain signed a recognition agreement with Israel in 2020, which has angered Bahraini pro-Palestinian groups.
Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), said in a statement, “Arresting one of the top Shia clerics in the country over his Friday prayers speech reveals the truth about the authorities’ claim of religious tolerance and freedom of religion.”
“Sheikh al-Sanqour is just one of many examples of Shia religious clerics who dare to tell people in power the unpleasant truth. We demand that the government immediately release him, end the censorship, and guarantee religious and expression freedom.