Iran has called on Bahrain to release the detained Shia leader, stressing that the aggressive treatment of “leaders respected by the people” will greatly complicate the situation.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke out against the arrest of Sheik Ali Salman, saying: “His moderate stance and that of Al-Wefaq Society gives them both domestic and international recognition.”

IRNA reports that in a statement on Wednesday, Zarif said Ali Salman has stayed within a framework of peaceful activities to realize the people’s demands, despite the harsh political and security conditions in recent years.

Sheikh Ali Salman, a dissident Shia cleric, was summoned by the Bahraini interior ministry on Sunday December 28 and was arrested upon reporting to the ministry.

Ali Salman is the secretary of the Al-Wefaq Society, one of the largest political parties in the country, founded in 2001 by Bahraini Shias.

A court in Bahrain has charged Salman with sedition. He is also accused of spreading hate and insulting the ministry of the interior.

Ali Salman’s arrest triggered protests in Bahrain, which were met by violent police crackdowns.