Re-Trial Ordered of Jailed Human Rights Defenders, Writers, and Bloggers
PEN International reiterates its protest against the continued detention of academic, blogger, and human rights activist Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace and human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja after an appeals court ordered a re-trial of their case and ruled that they should remain in jail pending a new verdict. No date has yet been set for the re-trial, which will be heard in a civilian court.
PEN continues to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Bahrain for the peaceful exercise of their opinions, including Dr. Al-Singace and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, and urges a full and independent investigation into allegations that they were tortured in pre-trial detention. It reminds the Bahraini authorities of their obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a signatory.
According to PEN’s information, on April 30, 2012, the Court of Cassation ordered a re-trial in the case of all 21 opposition activists, writers, and bloggers convicted by a special security court on June 22, 2011, of “plotting to overthrow the government” for their peaceful opposition activities. They include academic, blogger, and human rights activist Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace and human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who were each sentenced to life imprisonment after calling for political reform and reporting on human rights abuses in the country. After the hearing, the official Bahrain News Agency reported that the re-trial will hear “testimony from prosecution and defense witnesses…once more as if it is a new trial…" None of the defendants were present at the court hearing, and all 14 detainees are expected to remain in custody for the duration of their appeal, except for Al Hurra Yousif Mohammed, who was released after yesterday’s hearing upon the expiry of his sentence.
Seven of the defendants were convicted in absentia, including blogger Ali Abdul Imam of Bahrain Online, sentenced to 15 years in prison. The appeal of the 14 detainees was heard on September 6, 2011, by the military-run National Safety Court of Appeal, and all the sentences were upheld on appeal at a brief hearing on September 28, 2011. The trial did not meet with international standards of fairness, and there has been no independent investigation into allegations by some of the defendants, including Dr. Al-Singace and Mr. Al-Khawaja, that they were tortured in pre-trial detention, when they were held incommunicado.
PEN supported a trial observation mission by British Barrister Sarah Elliott of Doughty Street Chambers to Bahrain for the verdict in September 2011 and for the hearing of the Court of Cassation on April 23, 2012, in partnership with the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). The mission is also supported by IFEX member the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), both founded by al-Khawaja. Elliot received permission by the authorities to attend the Court’s hearing on April 23, which was then postponed for one week; there was no reply to the request to allow her to return for the rescheduled April 30 hearing.
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has pledged to continue his hunger strike, which he started on February 8, 2012, “until freedom or death.” He was finally permitted a visit by his wife on April 29, who claimed he had been force-fed without his consent. Bahraini officials claim al-Khawaja agreed to all procedures. According to his family he is said to be close to death.
- "Fifty IFEX members and partners call for freedom for Bahraini human rights defenders, bloggers and activists"
Write A Letter
- Protesting the continued detention of Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja solely for peacefully exercising their right to free expression;
- Demanding a full independent investigation into allegations that both men have been tortured and ill-treated in detention;
- Seeking assurances that both men have access to all necessary medical care while detained;
- Urging the Bahraini authorities to abide by their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Bahrain solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions, including Dr. Al-Singace and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.
Send Your Letter To
His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa
King of Bahrain
Office of His Majesty the King
Kingdom of Bahrain.
Fax: +973 176 64 587
Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Fax: +973 175 31 284
Dr. Fatima al-Balushi
Minister of Human Rights and Social Development, Acting Minister of Health
Ministry of Human Rights and Development
Kingdom of Bahrain
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Bahrain in your country if possible.
Please send appeals immediately. Contact PEN if sending appeals after May 31, 2012: ftw [at] pen.org