Abd al-Hadi al-Khawajah, the executive director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, appeared in the Bahraini criminal court where he has denied charges of inciting hatred against the government and circulating false information about government officials.

He later announced through his wife he would boycott future hearings, saying the trial was unconstitutional.

Defence lawyer Muhammad Ahmad asked the judge for more time to prepare the case and for al-Khawajah to be released on bail.

Al-Khawajah was detained on 25 September, a day after he told a symposium that Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa should resign because of economic failures and human rights violations.

Trial adjourned

After a short break, Judge Syad Muhammad Kafrawi adjourned the trial till 3 November but with the accused remaining in custody. The hearing lasted only 15 minutes.

"At least we now have enough time to prepare our case"

Muhammad Ahmad,
defence lawyer

"At least we now have enough time to prepare our case," said defence lawyer Ahmad.

Outside the court, police manned barriers to keep at bay a noisy crowd of al-Khawajah supporters. "Down! Down! Khalifa," the crowd chanted, referring to the prime minister. "The nation doesn't want you!"

One protester carried a placard with a cartoon that showed a snake with the premier's face.

The police managed to prevent a repeat of last Wednesday's violence when the crowd tried to force its way into the court house. Tear gas was fired and one supporter barged into the courtroom and was arrested shouting slogans on behalf of al-Khawajah.

Trial statement

Al-Khawajah's wife, Khadija al-Musawi, said she had received a phone call from her husband after Monday's hearing in which he said he would not attend the trial in future.

"He told me that his trial is unconstitutional and he doesn't believe in the justice system," al-Musawi said. Lawyer Ahmad said he had been informed of the accused's decision.

There have been a series  of
demonstrations since his arrest

Bahraini law allows defendants not to sit in court.

Bahrain is one of the few Gulf states where peaceful protests are tolerated but public criticism of a member of the ruling family is rare. Since al-Khawajah's arrest, his supporters have launched a series of demonstrations against the prime minister.

Bahrain's king has expressed confidence in the long-time prime minister, who is his uncle.

Since taking office in 1999, the king has taken bold steps to move Bahrain from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. In 2002, Bahrain held its first parliamentary elections in three decades.

But critics say the reforms do not go far enough toward freedom of expression and democracy.