Friday, October 29, 2010

Human rights defender Singace, blogger Abdulemam + 23 others on trial in Bahrain

The trial of 25 Shia Muslim opposition activists has opened in Bahrain, five days after a tense general election.The activists have pleaded not guilty to charges of plotting to overthrow the Sunni-led government and to supporting "terror cells" in the Gulf kingdom.
Some of the accused have told the court that they were tortured. Rights groups have criticised the government for arresting dissidents and curtailing media freedoms in the run-up to last Saturday's poll. Amnesty Internationale reported that in the months preceding the election as much as 250 people have been arrested.

The original 23 suspects  were unexpectedly joined by two other defendants, including the well known blogger Ali Abdulemam (here on a picture taken after his arrest).  The men were charged with forming an illegal organisation, resorting to terrorism, financing terrorist activities and spreading false information, according to the indictment.

Among the accused coup plotters is prominent rights activist Abdul-Jalil Singace (picture left), who was taken into custody in August when he returned from London with his family. All suspects face possible life sentences if convicted.
In the kingdom Bahrain a Sunni minority rules over a Shia majority. This has been causing problems from time to time, as the Shias - who make up 70% of the country's 530,000 citizens - press for greater political power. Parliamentary elections give the Shias only a limited role, as all legislation has to pass a Shura (Senate) in which all members are appointed by the king and the ruling Al-Khalifa family. The Shias complain that they are excluded from any key policymaking roles or top posts in the security forces.

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