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Bahrain: Sham Court Sets a Date for Verdict While Ignoring the Boycott of Lawyers and Defendants

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The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) was informed that the defendants in the case of the February 14th Coalition have announced their boycott of the court session on the 5th of September. This court session was supposed to be for questioning prosecution witnesses. The session did not go ahead due to the boycotting of the defendants and their lawyers; and the judge did not show up to the session either. Despite the session not taking place, a court decision was issued announcing the 19th and 20th of September as possible verdict reading dates.

The detainees of the February 14th Coalition case issued a statement published on social media saying that they were boycotting the court for the following reasons: "The illegal arrest details, the violations of the interrogators during the interrogations and the fabrication of charges against us, the lack of independence of the Public Prosecution that was proven to us when they forced us to confess to the charges fabricated against us during the interrogations, and the circumstances of the trial in the court sessions confirmed the lack of independence of the judiciary."

The signatories of the statement also stated "All what we mentioned, and other reasons which we cannot disclose, have delivered us to the conclusion that the verdicts were prepared in advance, and that the trial is only a legal cover for these verdicts, thus we refuse to be a part of the charade meant to delude the public opinion about the independence of the judiciary. We say this with our appreciation for the defense team and their great efforts in the case, but our conviction rejects the trial completely and we hope from them – meaning the defense team – not to take any action against our will."

Human rights activists announced their boycott of the session as well; Said Yousif AlMouhafdah of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and Mohammed AlMaskati of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), boycotted the trial stating that the court proceedings were incompatible with the international standards for a fair trial, and they considered the continuation of the judiciary is in violation with the principle of "no conflict of personal interests," which affects the independence of the court.

In a previous session, the legal defense team, which includes 50 Bahrainis; 49 men and one woman, requested a response from the Forth Authority High Criminal Court regarding a letter they handed to them. The legal letter included a request to change the court due to conflicts of interest, as well as requesting the formation of a medical committee to investigate the torture the defendants were subjected to.

The defense team withdrew from the session and justified the withdrawal by basing their refusal of the court on Article 211 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Bahrain, which states that the defense team can refuse the judge's ruling in the cases mentioned in the previous article and in other cases which are prescribed by the law.

It was clear from the first session of the trial that it is nothing more than a show trial designed to pass political judgments against the defendants, as the court refused to hear the allegations of torture made ​​by the defendants or even document/investigate them. The court also refused to release the detainees despite the risk of being tortured again when returned to prison. To add to that, the judge did not note down the requests as stated by the lawyers, and no investigation was conducted on the complaints of torture made ​​by most of the detainees in the case of the February 14th Coalition case. Moreover, the court disregarded the fact that some of the defendants did not even have assigned lawyers.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) believes that the continuation of the court and the judges in sessions and calling the witnesses although it was not asked by the lawyers, and reserving the case for the verdict, while continuing to disregard requests made legal defense team and those they represent, confirms that it is nothing more than a sham court. This process is similar to the National Safety courts that took place in 2011 and disregarded demands of lawyers and the complaints and statements of the detainees about being subjected to torture. The only tool these courts are used for are to deliver a verdict seemingly already decided before the case was presented to court. These courts are nothing more than another block in a long line of violations starting from the time of arrest until the verdict is passed.

Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) demands the following:

  • Immediate release of the defendants of above mentioned case as well as all other political prisoners
  • Independent investigation into the complaints and allegations of torture
  • Accountability for those responsible for the torture, ill-treatment and sexual harassment

 

Read Also:

Bahrain: First Hearing of the"14th of February Coalition Cell" Case Lacks the Most Basic Elements of a Fair Trial

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