Bahrain verdict delay is 'denial of justice'

By agency reporter
16 Aug 2012

The postponement of a verdict in the appeal case of 13 Bahraini opposition activists has been criticised by Amnesty International as “tantamount to a denial of justice.”

Bahrain’s High Criminal Court of Appeal has postponed to 4 September the final verdict on the appeal of the 13 - all activists and prisoners of conscience convicted on charges related to pro-reform protests last year.

Dr Ghanim Alnajjar, an internationally-recognised human rights expert, who observed the court proceedings on behalf of Amnesty, said:“The decision to postpone the final verdict is unjustified, and is tantamount to a denial of justice.”

Amnesty considers the 13 activists to be prisoners of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and has repeatedly called on the Bahraini authorities to quash their convictions and release them immediately and unconditionally.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said: “The defendants have endured months in detention already.

“But instead of quashing their convictions and releasing them, the Bahraini authorities have resorted to the now-familiar tactic of postponing the hearing and toying with defendants, thus prolonging their ordeal and that of their families.”

The 13, who include prominent activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, were originally sentenced by a military court in June 2011 to between two years and life in prison on charges including “setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution”. All the men maintain their innocence.

The decision came days after the Bahrain authorities also announced the postponement to 16 August of the appeal hearing on the case of Nabeel Rajab - the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. Rajab is serving a three-month prison sentence over a libel case in relation to one of his tweets.

Meanwhile, nine health professionals are also awaiting their final appeal verdict, which is set for 1 October.

[Ekk/4]

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