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BAHRAIN: Activists tortured before trial, rights group alleges

Lkvkuhnc A pro-democracy activist in Bahrain appeared to have been beaten and possibly tortured before he appeared in court this week, according to the New York-based nonprofit Human Rights Watch.

Abdulhadi Khawaja was one of 14 defendants, mostly opposition leaders in the Persian Gulf state, who were charged with seeking to “topple the regime forcibly in collaboration with a terrorist organization working for a foreign country,“ Human Rights Watch said in a statement Tuesday. Seven others were charged in absentia.

When Khawaja's wife and daughter spoke with him briefly after he appeared  in court Sunday, the first time they had seen him since his arrest April 9, he told them he had suffered four fractures to his face, including one to his jaw that required four hours of surgery.

Timeline: Repression in Bahrain

Khawaja's daughter Maryam told Human Rights Watch that her mother and sister met with him for 10 minutes after the initial hearing.

“She said her father had gone on a hunger strike to protest his ill treatment and his lack of access to a lawyer," according to a statement released by Human Rights Watch. “She also said that he told his wife and daughter that he had been tortured, but could not describe details because the family meetings took place in the presence of security guards."

The rights group said it had previously received “credible reports" that Khawaja had been admitted to Bahrain Defense Force Hospital for six days to be treated for his injuries.

“One person who claimed to have seen him said he was at that point unrecognizable as a result of apparent beatings in detention," the statement said.

Two other detainees entered court limping on Sunday, the rights group said.

“When the defendants asked to speak about the abuse they allegedly experienced in detention, security forces forcibly removed them from court," the statement said.

Bahrain is a party to the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture, and its leaders have ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

Bahraini authorities denied that Khawaja had been hospitalized or that any of the other detainees had been tortured.

The state-run Bahrian News Agency called the reports “fabricated, politically motivated news."

"The genuine facts that we received from the Military Hospital and the Salmaniya Medical Complex, the largest hospitals in the country, are that neither hospital has admitted or treated any of the detainees. The hospitals stated that the rumours about the admissions and hospitalization were untrue," the report said, quoting official Bahraini sources.

Bahrain's police and military have operated under a “state of national safety" since March 15. A military prosecutor charged the 14 dissidents, and the trial is being overseen by a military judge, who postponed the next hearing until May 12, the rights group said, to give the defendants time to find lawyers and prepare their cases.

They stand accused of crimes that include, among other things, managing terrorist groups for the overthrow of the monarchy, working for a foreign country against the kingdom, insulting the army, broadcasting false news, inciting hatred and protesting without a permit, according to the Bahrain News Agency.

King Hamed ibn Isa Khalifa has said he intends to end a three-month period of martial law, instituted amid anti-government protests, two weeks early, on June 1.

Human Rights Watch called on Bahrain's leaders in the meantime to suspend prosecution of civilians in special military courts, to grant them access to relatives and medical care and to set up an impartial commission to investigate allegations of torture.

“Torture or ill treatment is a serious crime, and Bahraini officials who did or authorized this treatment need to be held accountable," said Joe Stork, the group's deputy Middle East director.


Timeline: Repression in Bahrain

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo

Photo: A vendor arranges newspapers in Hamad Town, Bahrain, on May 8, 2011. Al-Ayam newspaper (center) published pictures of some of the political activists accused by a military prosecutor of seeking to overthrow the Persian Gulf nation's ruling monarchy in a widening crackdown on a pro-reform uprising led by the country's Shiite majority. Credit: Hasan Jamali / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (9)

I find it humorous that there are people commenting here on the article and mentioning an "Iranian plot and propaganda". Open your eyes and stop believing everything the Bahraini regime's state-controlled media is telling you. The Bahraini regime is a ruthless and dictatorial regime that does not allow for political dissent. The Bahraini regime has conspired against its own people and have allowed Saudi Arabia, another absolute monarchy and ruthless regime, to subdue and crush the Bahraini people. This is what is happening everyday in Bahrain. The Bahraini regime has attempted to concoct the issue in sectarian terms because it realizes that many people in Bahrain are sectarian and have an unfounded and discriminatory view of Shi'te. The Bahraini regime's sectarian tactics seem to have convinced some here like commentator "Daw" and "V_Koshy". The demonstrators in Bahrain called for equality and democracy. What is so threatening about that? The only thing the demonstrators threatened was the absolute power of the Bahraini regime. Therefore, it only makes sense that this same regime would try to deflect attention away from the calls for democracy by the protestors and create a scapegoat out of Iran, the "boogeyman" of the Gulf. If Iran truly were involved and truly were behind the protests, the protesters would not have been unarmed and peaceful calling for democracy.

Dear Sir,

All accusations of Bahrain Government are totally misleading and false, and is distributed by Iranian Government or their supporters, within and out of Bahrain and is a mere Propaganda.

the regime in Bahrain is abusing human rights in many ways, few of what

happens now in Bahrain:

1- pro-government with me at work asking to cleanse our organization form

Shiite, and everyday they ask for dismissal of more employees, though

many employees were dismissed, they are looking for more, and the

government is always with them

2- everyday the regime chooses number of schools to attack, arrest

teachers and students of high and intermediate schools. for elementary

schools (6-12 years) the police goes to schools to check if the photo of

the King is still safe in the first page of all books of students.

3- many patients with kidney failure and diabetes are no more able to

reach Salmanya Medical Complex Hospital in fear of the police that are

all around the hospital

4-many governments are now checking the facebook and twitter accounts of

employees and investigates with them on everything related to the

revolution. in many government employees computers were monitored long

time to take screen shots of their pages.

Bahrain is not about the Khawaja's or Joe Stork. It is about a lot of other people who live here as well. Till your reports suggests that, it can only be considered as biased and fabricated.

Can't believe that entire newspapers have been hijacked for this Khawaja family and the Iranian backed plot. Have to admit their PR though and how they have managed to successfully infiltrate a lot of networks. With Joe Stork and Richard Sollem as their pet poodles and enlisted activists.

Joe & Richard we are humans too and we have rights too. We would like to be heard and may I ask when are you going to be doing that? How can you ignore the rights of many and ask for the rights of a few? Do you work for just a few?

The Bahraini Regime must be prosecuted for its crimes against humanity.

The Bahraini government have tried everything to provoke the Shia majority into violence to prove that it's a sectarian conflict at issue here but have failed in every attempt. They have broken taboo after taboo, beat women, detain and sexually harass women, demolish Shia mosques, burn the Quran, desecrate grave yard, torture to death several protesters besides kidnappings and armed masked-men Shia-humiliation checkpoints. They have failed, so they're now turning on school girls. Dealing with women like this is absolutely unacceptable in the Arab & Muslim world, just to show how desperate they are to drive the Shia break their peaceful protest to prove their claim of Shia versus Sunni, instead of legitimate democratic demands from the ruling family. Bahrain is assured impunity and therefore will continue until something gives.

Obama's hypocrisy and double standard:
It's O.K. to bomb Libya's Gaddafi but not Bahrain's despot.
Bahrain's despot and corrupt royal family are Obama's friends.
The killing of democracy protesters are ignored by corporate media.

Thank you for the proper dissemination of news about Bahrain

This is why the al Khalifa regime is also desperate to keep international reporters out of the country.


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