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The US Ally upholds convictions of rights' activists in Bahrain

Published on 07 January 2013, by M. Tomazy.
Bahrain's highest appeals court on Monday upheld jail terms against 13 prominent activists, seven of whom are facing life in prison, over their involvement in the Gulf state’s 2011 popular uprising, lawyers said.

The Court of Cassation rejected the final appeal by the 13 opposition leaders, the lawyers said. Seven others were convicted in absentia.

“This verdict is final, there are no more appeals possible, it is the last stage of litigation,” lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi told Reuters.

Among those sentenced to life is well-known activist Abdulhadi Khawaja who in June ended a 110-day hunger strike. He was convicted on charges of “plotting against the state.”

Two others sentenced to life are Hassan Mashaima and Abduljalil al-Singace, political activists from the opposition Haq movement.

Their supporters gathered outside the courthouse in the morning to protest for their release.

The activists took part in 2011 anti-government protests and were convicted by a military tribunal on charges that included "setting up terror groups to topple the regime."

The defendants were retried in a civil court. In September, a lower appeals court upheld life sentences for seven of the activists including Khawaja, Mashaima and Singace, and jail terms ranging from five to 15 years for the others.

Last month, a court upheld the conviction of Nabeel Rajab, the country’s most prominent human rights defender. The court reduced his sentence from three years to two for organizing protests.

Dozens of other rights activists remain behind bars. At least 80 people have been killed in the violence since the popular uprising erupted in February 2011.

Saudi troops were ushered into Bahrain, home to the US Fifth fleet, to help suppress the uprising in March 2011, but failed to end protests.

Security forces continue to clamp down on the almost daily demonstrations against the government.

Human rights activists, medics who have treated injured protesters and journalists have all been targeted by the monarchy.

An independent commission formed last year to investigate cases of abuse at the hands of the government found the kingdom’s security forces responsible for torture, killing and the use “excessive force.”
(Al-Akhbar English)