Bahrain: Delay in verdict in activists’ appeal a ‘denial of justice’

The High Criminal Court of Appeal in Bahrain has postponed to 4 September the final verdict on the appeal of 13 opposition 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 International, said:“The decision to postpone the final verdict is unjustified, and is tantamount to a denial of justice.” Amnesty International considers the 13 opposition 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.Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme 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 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 of the men maintain their innocence. Today’s decision comes days after the Bahrain authorities 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, who is serving a three-month prison sentence over a libel case in relation to one of his tweets. Nine health professionals are also awaiting their final appeal verdict which is set for 1 October.