Sunday, Bahrain began a “trial” for 21 opposition leaders, seven of them to be tried in absentia. The trial was suddenly announced on Saturday following public attention on Friday – including an urgent appeal by Amnesty International – when word spread that human rights leader Abdulhadi Alkhawaja had been taken from jail to a hospital for surgery for injuries caused by torture. (Alkhawaja is known to many FDL readers as the father of @angryarabiya)
According to reports received by Amnesty International, when ‘Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was admitted to the Bahrain Defence Force military hospital in al-Riffa’, central Bahrain, around the end of April, he had cracks on his jaw and skull and black marks on his arms, allegedly caused by torture. He was reportedly admitted for six days and had several operations on his head and face. He was hastily returned to prison where he was said to have been tortured again.
Via twitter, Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bajrain Human Rights Center reports that:
The jaw of human rights activist A. Hadi alKhawaja was severely smashed graft was taken from his skull to repair it #bahrain
This was confirmed by his daughter Maryam Alkhawaja:
The so-called trial held yesterday and continued for another hearing next week was held almost in secret. Detainees were allowed 15-minute visits with two family members, and some were allowed legal representation, but not all.
Alkhawaja’s family were able to confirm today, after meeting with him briefly after the court session, that he had sustained 4 fractures to the left side of his face, including one in his jaw. He consequently had to undergo a major 4 hour surgery where they had to take bone from his skull to replace the broken bones in his face.
He also had stitches above his left eye. They say that as a result of this he can barely eat and cannot smile due to the pain
The healing process has been slow because he had been on a hunger strike because he did not have a lawyer.
Observers at Sunday’s hearing report that:
Trial has been postponed til thursday. As judge tried to end sessions detainees said they were being kept in solitary confinement and they wanted a guarantee the torture wud stop. They were removed from the court
The prisoners being tried are the key leaders of a wide range of opposition groups and include both Shia and Sunni activists, human rights defenders and political leaders and a blogger (a full list with bios can be found here) . . . [cont'd.]
Ibrahim Sharif, the Sunni leader of Waed secular group, who played a prominent role in the protest, was among the defendants in court, BNA said.
Shiite opposition Haq movement head Hassan Mashaima and Abdulwahab Hussein, leader of Shiite movement Wafa Islamic, and Shiite rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja were also in the dock.
Only their lawyers and two members of each family of the accused were authorised to attend the trial, for which the next hearing was set for Thursday, Bahraini rights activist Nabil Rajab told AFP.
BNA said the defendants were being tried by a special court made up of two civil and one military judge, on charges filed by Bahrain’s military prosecutor.
In an attempt to brand these nonviolent activists as terrorists and allies of Iran, they are charged with offenses, some of which carry a mandatory death penalty:
1. Organising and managing a terrorist group for the overthrow and the change of the country’s constitution and the royal rule in accordance with article (1,6) of the law no. 58 for 2006 related to the protection of society against terrorist acts.
2. The seeking and correspondence with a terrorist organization abroad working for a foreign country to conduct heinous acts against the Kingdom of Bahrain in accordance with article (122) of the criminal law for the 1976.
3. An attempt to overthrow and change the country’s constitution and Royal rule by force in accordance with article (148) of the criminal law for 1976.
4. An attempt to incite and solicit the overthrow and change the country’s constitution and Royal rule by force in accordance with article (160) of the criminal law for 1976.
5. The collection and providing of money for the terrorist group with the knowledge of its practices and terrorist activities in accordance with law related to money laundering and financing terrorism for the year 2001.
6. The obtaining of publications that contain content inciting the overthrow of the governing law in the country by force in accordance with article (161) of the same law.
7. Insult the army according to the article (216) of the same law.
8. Inciting publicly towards the hatred of the governing law of the country in accordance to article no (165) of the same law.
9. Broadcasting false news and rumours that caused the threatening of public security and inflecting damage to public interest in accordance to article (168) of the same law.
10. Inciting the hatred of a certain sect of people in accordance to article (172) of the same law.
11. Inciting incompliance with the law that is considered a crime in accordance with article (173) of the same law.
12. Organising and participating in rallies without the permission of the specialized body according to article (1,2,3,9,13) of the law related to meetings and processions for 2006.
Alkhawaja’s daughter, Maryam Al-Khawaja, an activist with the BHRC, writes:
In regards to the charges brought against the detainees that are based upon articles of Bahrain Penal Code 1976, the law no. 58 for 2006 related to the protection of society against terrorist acts, law related to money laundering and financing terrorism for the year 2001 and the law related to meetings and processions for 2006, all of the accusations are expressed in a very vague and imprecise manner. In fact, the law that the allegations derive from is of a very ambiguous nature itself. This in practice allows the prosecution to decide its extensive interpretation and application. In accordance with the international standards, the prosecution would have to provide a very strong and unequivocal evidence in order to be successful as most of the alleged charges carry the sentence of life imprisonment. Moreover, one of the allegations based upon article 122 of the Penal Code 1976, that alleges spying and communicating on behalf of a foreign country against the State of Bahrain, if proven, will mandate a penalty as extreme as capital punishment.
And more “trials” are planned:
Nearly 50 medics who treated injured protesters are also to go on trial in the same court at a later date, while the editors of the opposition newspaper Al-Wasat will also be tried for unethical coverage of the protests.
And the regime is also arresting and beating teachers and students:
At least 150 women have been arrested, and at least 17 remain in custody, according to al-Wefaq, the moderate Shiite political organization. Nabeel Rajab, president of the independent Bahrain Center for Human Rights, thinks the number is a lot higher.
Yasmeen, age 16 – McClatchy is withholding her real name to protect her from retribution – was ordered from her school on April 26 and held three days with four other teenage girls. She said that on the drive to police headquarters, police threatened to rape them and said they were not true Muslims.
At the stationhouse, “they beat me on the head with a black rubber hose,” she said in an interview. “They threw me against the wall. The policeman ordered me to remove my headscarf. He took my head and pulled my hair, pushed me against the wall, injuring my head,” she said…
They “played with our psychology,” Yasmeen said. She said that they threatened to turn the girls over to the Saudi military, which has 1,500 troops on the island. “They will manage your case,” she recalled her captors saying. “We were under stress. I fainted. I could not imagine I would be taken there.”
According to Mattar al-Mattar, one of the Shiite members of parliament, there were at least seven cases in which police rounded up schoolchildren. The authorities arrested Mattar on May 1 and are holding him on unknown charges.
A schoolteacher from a village near Manama said nine teachers in her school were hauled out of their classrooms in mid-April and held for at least nine days. Security authorities charged they had shouted “Down with Hamad.” They were beaten with rubber hoses, she said. “They had to stand for more than 10 hours, facing the wall.” she said.
In yet another attempt to distract from the real news, the King of Bahrain announced that the emergency order would be lifted on June 1, two weeks early but clearly such moves are meaningless so long as the detentions and torture continue.
And of course, the Obama administration continues to be silent.