Bahrain court overturns Shi'ite death terms

2012-01-09 20:50

Dubai - Bahrain's cassation court on Monday annulled the death sentences of two Shi'ites and the life imprisonment of three others convicted of killing two policemen in unrest last year, a lawyer said.

The trial of Shi'ite medics who claim to have been tortured to confess to charges linked to the month-long unrest, meanwhile, was adjourned to March 19.

Ali Abdullah Hasan al-Singace and Abdul Aziz Abdullah Ibrahim Hussein were sentenced to death by a semi-military court set up under a state of "national safety" declared by King Hamad ahead of the mid-March crackdown on Shi'ite-led protests demanding democratic change.

"The verdicts were annulled and sent to the lower court of appeal," said lawyer Mohsen al-Alawi, part of the team defending Singace.

Initially, the National Safety Court of First Instance last April sentenced four defendants to death and three to life in jail, including two tried in absentia.

An appeal court commuted the sentences of two of the convicts to life in prison and upheld the death sentence of Singace and Hussein.

The verdicts against those at large were not appealed.

"This is a positive verdict. We are optimistic," said Alawi, pointing out that a new witness, a policeman, has surfaced since the appeal verdict was announced, claiming the charges were "fabricated."

"His statement has been taken by the public prosecution and we shall use it," in the forthcoming retrial, he said.

The seven were accused of running over two policemen - Kashif Ahmed Manzur and Mohammed Farouk Abdulsamad.

Their trial began on April 17, with BNA state news agency reporting at the time that the defendants were accused of committing voluntary homicide of public officials with "terrorist" aims.

Witnesses appeared before the tribunal and a video allegedly showing the attackers in cars hitting police was played, according to the agency.

Torture

An international probe into Bahrain's crackdown on the protests found that 35 people were killed in the unrest, including five security personnel and five detainees who were tortured to death in custody.

Hundreds were injured.

Meanwhile, medics appeared in court on Monday for a new hearing in the civil appeals court after they were handed heavy jail sentences by the national safety court, defendant and consultant orthopaedic surgeon Ali Alekri told AFP.

The 20 doctors and nurses worked at Manama's Salmaniya Medical complex which was stormed by security forces after the crackdown on the protest encampment at the capital's nearby Pearl Square.

They face a plethora of charges, the most serious of which is occupying the vital medical centre and possessing weapons, while denying Sunni Muslims access to the hospital as Shiite demonstrators camped in the complex's car park.

Medics have requested the right to "go back to work, travel, receive their suspended salaries, and a delay in verdicts until the constitutional court decides if national safety courts are legal", Alekri said.

The constitutional court, working on the recommendation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry which in November accused authorities of using excessive force against protesters, will decide on January 25 if the earlier trials were constitutional, he said.

In another new hearing, a civil court adjourned to January 25 the trial of a cell of eight, including three being tried in absentia, over forming a "terrorist cell" allegedly linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, lawyer Alawi said.

He said the defence asked the court to allow defendants to speak out about the "torture they suffered", adding that many told their families they had confessed under duress.

In November, the interior ministry said a cell had been broken up that was planning to attack the ministry, the Saudi embassy in Riyadh and the causeway which links the archipelago state to Saudi Arabia.

Read more on:    bahrain  |  uprisings  |  bahrain protests
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