The sixth hearing in the trial of 25 human rights activists and opposition members was held yesterday in Manama and ended with another adjournment, this time until 13 January, after the defendants again refused to cooperate with the court-appointed lawyers. Nineteen of these lawyers resigned as a result of their clients’ refusal to cooperate. The judge is to appoint new defence lawyers between now and the next hearing.
Trial of 25 activists adjourned again
A fifth hearing in the trial of the 25 opposition and human rights activists was opened today and then adjourned until 6 January. The case appears to have reached a judicial deadlock, since the accused have refused to cooperate with their court-appointed lawyers after a general resignation of their defence lawyers on 9 December, in protest at a legal violation. The court refused to investigate allegations of torture made by the detainees, flouting Article 186 of the criminal code. It is now unclear how the trial might resume in January, since the defendants for the time being no longer have lawyers with whom they will agree to cooperate.
Lawyers for 25 detained activists stage walk-out in protest against torture
09.12.2010 All of the defence lawyers staged a walk-out during yesterday’s fourth hearing in the trial of 25 detained opposition and human rights activists, who include the bloggers Ali Abdulemam and Abeljalil Al-Singace. They withdrew because of the court’s repeated refusal to suspend the trial to allow an investigation of the detainees’ torture allegations, as required by article 186 of the criminal code.
Speaking on behalf of all the defence lawyers, Jalila Al-Sayed announced in court: “We are withdrawing because the court is taking no account of our calls for an investigation into the torture allegations. We now consider this trial to be unjust and contrary to international standards and we refuse to be a party to it.” The trial was adjourned until 23 December.
The authorities yesterday again barred several prominent people from the courtroom, including Mohamed Maskati, the head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, Ghada Jamsheer, a women’s and human rights activist, Ebrahim Sherif, the head of the National Action Society, AbdulNabi AlEkri, the head of the Bahrain Transparency Society, and Dr. Abdulhadi Khalaf, a writer and former parliamentarian. Some of the detainees’ relatives were also excluded.
Representatives of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Ahmed Mansour of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) and British human rights lawyer Matthew Moriarty were however allowed into the courtroom, as were a few local media.
Large numbers of police, supported by helicopters flying overhead, were again deployed around the courtroom.
Leading human rights activist harassed amid tension over trial of netizens 12.08.2010
Reporters Without Borders condemns the government’s constant harassment of Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. In the latest instance, he was detained by national security police for an hour at Manama airport on 2 December as he was about to fly to Greece.
Although a nationally and internationally recognized human rights defender, Rajab was threatened before being released. His laptop and mobile phone were also taken from him while he was held so that so that all the information on them could be copied despite the lack of any court order authorizing this.
A smear campaign was launched against Rajab in the government media last September. One newspaper put his photo on the front page and referred to him as a “terrorist.” In interrogation sessions, he has been questioned and pressured about comments made in private. He has been subjected to physical as well psychological abuse. While taking part in a protest against unemployment in 2005, he was attacked and injured by members of Bahrain’s special forces and had to spend two weeks in hospital.
This latest act of provocation toward Rajab came as the trial of 23 human right activists and opposition members continues in Manama. The defendants include two bloggers, Ali Abduleman and Abduljalil Al-Singace, whose release Reporters Without Borders has repeatedly requested (read the article).
The only defendant to speak in court during the third hearing on 25 November, Mohamed Habib Al-Miqdad, said all the defendants had been subjected to torture, electric shocks or humiliating insults since their arrest. He also said they had been tortured even more severely as a “punishment” for denouncing the torture at previous hearings in the trial, which began on 28 October. He singled out Badr Al-Ghaith, one the interrogators who tortured Al-Singace, as one of the worst offenders.
Defence lawyers demanded independent medical examinations under article 185 of the criminal code in order to verify the torture allegations. They also gave the court a copy of a note from the interior minister in which he recognised that at least four officials had administered electric shocks to a detainee. The defence then demanded that the trial be suspended under article 186 so that the torture allegations could be investigated.
The defence lawyers also demanded an improvement in the conditions in which the defendants are being held. They had been transferred to a different detention centre before the third hearing but the conditions there were not much better,
Rajab and relatives of the defendants were barred from the court during the third hearing. Women’s rights activist Ghada Jamsheer, Abdulnabi Al-Ekri, the head of the Bahrain Transparency Society and a BBC TV crew (whose camera had been seized on their arrival at Manama airport) were also excluded and no one was allowed to take mobile phones or cameras into the courtroom.
Police erected and manned barricades at the entrance to the court building and expelled Rajab from a nearby café to prevent him from using its Internet connection to send updates about the trial on Facebook and Twitter. The café was then closed.