BAHRAIN: Seven protesters sentenced; defendant details alleged rape threats in custody
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Seven anti-government protesters on trial before a military court received sentences ranging from one to three years Monday in connection with their participation in anti-government protests in the Persian Gulf kingdom earlier this year, activists said.
Majad Ali Mohamed and Ibrahim Salman Abdullah each received one-year sentences. Mohammed Mullah Ahmed, Haitham Shobar Sharaf and Hassan Mansour Hussein were each sentenced to two years, and Hussein Ali Ahmed and Jafar Mohammed Ibrahim received three-year sentences, according to human-rights activists.
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights released a statement saying the organization was “deeply concerned” about the sentencing by the National Safety Court set up under the country’s emergency law, due to be lifted June 1.
The defendants were charged with, among other things, participating in illegal demonstrations and rallies and inciting the public against the government.
They were among 21 opposition figures charged, seven in absentia.
At a Monday court hearing, one of the other defendants, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, former president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said that he had been threatened with rape in custody after he refused to apologize to the king on camera, according to activists. The Bahraini judge responded by having Alkhawaja removed from court, activists said. Other activists have said they were tortured while in custody.
Before he was removed from court, Alkhawaja was allowed 10 minutes with relatives and his lawyer. They said he told them that last Friday he was taken in a white sedan to an unknown location where a man who said he was a representative of the king questioned and videotaped him, urging him to apologize to the king. After Alkhawaja refused, he said he was taken to another room where four men cursed and threatened to rape him and his daughter, activist Maryam Alkhawaja. He said the men began to undress, flash and touch him inappropriately. When they tried to take off his pants, Alkhawaja said he collapsed and started bashing his head until he almost passed out. Eventually, he said the men returned him to his prison cell. He said he had seen a doctor and was scheduled to have an X-ray for possible head injuries.
Alkhawaja had testified during previous court hearings that he and other defendants had been tortured by their captors, but his comments were removed from the record.
On Monday, another defendant, Mohammed Hassan, also said he had been tortured, raising his pant legs to show the marks, activists said.
Four protesters have died in Bahraini police custody since anti-government demonstrations began in February. The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and Bahrain Centre of Human Rights said in a statement that they “fear for the safety and security of the defendants in general and in particular those that choose to speak out about their conditions and treatment in prison, especially considering the four deaths.”
The two groups called for the immediate release of Alkhawaja and the other 20 detainees, an immediate investigation into torture allegations, and international pressure on the Bahraini authorities to guarantee the safety of human-rights activists.
The trial for the rest of the protesters was postponed Monday until Sunday, according to the state news agency.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo
Photo: A sketch released Thursday by state-run Bahrain News Agency shows proceedings in a military court where 21 opposition activists were on trail, seven in absentia. At the top is an Arabic verse from the Koran, ‘The Almighty said: If you judge among the people, you judge with justice.’ Credit: Bahrain News Agency / Associated Press