Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Life sentences for Bahraini reformists in unfair military process

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja: life sentence.
Police and protesters have clashed in Bahrain on Wednesday after a court sentenced nine several people to life in prison and convicted 12 others to prison terms between two and 15 years. The draconian punishments - considering that the Bahraini protests had been completely peaceful and aimed at no more than political reforms - were based on accusations that the defendants had been plotting a coup to overthrow the state's monarchy.
The life sentences were issued against a prominent Shia political leader, Hassan Mushaima; human rights activist Abdulhady al-Khawaja, political activist Abduljalil al-Singace,who was just released in February after six months in jail, and five others. Nine of the defendants had, like Singace,  been in custody on similar charges in the past before being set free under a royal pardon in February aimed at calming protests in Bahrain.
Ibrahim Sharif, the Sunni leader of the secular leftist group Waad, was sentenced to five years. Waad had joined the Shiite Wefaq in calling for political reforms. Said Abdulnabi Shihab was sentenced to life in absentia. Six other defendants who are abroad and being tried in absentia were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Authorities claimed the activists had not only sought to overthrow Bahrain's Sunni monarchy, but had also had links to "a terrorist organisation abroad".
Update: Amnesty International called the trail unfair. Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme said:“These sentences are extremely harsh, and they appear to be politically motivated, since we have not seen any evidence that the activists used or advocated violence.”
“Civilians should not have been tried in a military court, and these trials have been patently unfair. In particular, the court failed to adequately investigate allegations that some of the defendants were tortured and made to sign false 'confessions' which seem to have been used as evidence against them.”

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