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Startseite Urgent Actions 2010 09 Detained Shi'a muslims at risk Political activists on trial allege torture
FI 195/10-2
Bahrain
Abgeschlossen am 27. Dezember 2010

Political activists on trial allege torture

AI-Index: MDE 11/010/2010

A group of 23 detained opposition activists on trial in Bahrain have alleged that they were again subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in prison following their first trial session on 28 October. They had told the court they had been tortured and otherwise ill-treated following their arrests in August and September. They allege that the new abuses were committed against them in reprisal for having disclosed their earlier torture and other ill-treatment. They continue to have very limited access to their lawyers and there are continuing fears for their safety in prison.

The trial of the 23 activists, including leading members of Bahrain’s Sh’ia community, opened on 28 October. They are all accused of plotting to overthrow the government using “terrorism” and other means. At the first trial session all of the defendants denied the charges, and most told the court that they had been tortured or otherwise ill-treated in pre-trial detention. Some also said that security officials had threatened them the day before, warning them that they should not complain about their treatment to the court or they could face further torture.

The trial judge declined to release any of the defendants on bail but agreed to a defence request that they be moved from Dry-Dock Prison in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, to protect them against possible abuses by the security officials alleged to have threatened them. Currently, however, they remain held at Dry Dock Prison, though in a different section of the prison, and they are no longer held in solitary confinement.

Their lawyers complain that they have been allowed very little access to them. The 23 were not allowed any access to their lawyers in the first two weeks of their pre-trial detention, when they allege they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated, and were only able to see them when they were brought before the Public Prosecutor, about two weeks after arrest. The next time the defendants met with their lawyers was during the first trial session on 28 October.

The second session of the trial was held on 11 November. Defence lawyers told the court that some of the defendants allege that they were subjected to further torture or other ill-treatment, including by being forced to stand for many hours, after the 28 October court session. The third session of the trial will take place on 25 November.

Additional Information

According to media reports, the 23 political activists, who include human rights defenders and Shi'a clerics, were charged in late August with forming an illegal organization, aiming to overthrow the government and dissolve the Constitution, inciting people to "overthrow and change the political system of the country", fundraising and planning terrorist acts and other offences under Bahrain’s 2006 anti-terrorism law.

A delegation of Amnesty International was present during the first session of the trial before the High Criminal Court in Manama. The session was also attended by representatives of the UK, US and French embassies, media and family members. Amnesty International observers had the chance to meet lawyers and family members of the detainees in the days before the session.

When the trial resumed on 11 November, the same embassies mentioned above had observers present in the court as did the human rights group ‘Frontline’. The defendants all appeared in court with shaved heads; it is not clear whether their heads were shaved in prison with their consent or, as has been suggested, with the intent to humiliate them.

Only two of the 23 detainees have been referred to doctors outside the prison for an independent medical examination following their allegations of torture. Two others were referred to the same forensic doctors within the Public Prosecutor’s Office who had examined some of the detainees before the trial. According to lawyers, the medical reports were inconclusive.

The president of the court accepted the lawyers’ request for regular and private meetings with their clients; but rejected other requests such as to initiate fresh questioning of the detainees, an investigation into allegations of torture as well as referral of the detainees for independent medical examination.

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