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Middle East
Bahrain to review military court verdicts
Decision comes one day after security forces clashed with opposition protesters at funeral outside Manama.
Last Modified: 02 Jan 2012 19:55

Bahrain says it will set up a judicial panel to review some verdicts a military court issued over anti-government demonstrations led last year by members of the country's Shia majority.
 
A statement on the official BNA news agency said on Monday that the move came in response to the recommendations of an inquiry Bahrain commissioned into the turmoil.

Military courts issued at least five death sentences and sentenced some opposition leaders to life terms for organising protests after last year's unrest, which came as protest movements swept across the Arab world. The Shia-led protests in Bahrain were crushed by the country's Sunni government.

The United States, which harbours its Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, has said a $53m arms sale to the island kingdom depends on its response to the recommendations of the inquiry, which found detainees had been systematically abused and in some cases tortured to death.

Monday's statement said judges from civilian courts would be part of a body reviewing verdicts issued by the military tribunal that were not subject to appeal.

Rulings subject to review would include convictions for statements that did not amount to incitement to violence, it said.

The inquiry had criticised such convictions as punishing free speech.

'National Safety'

 

The National Safety tribunals, in which Bahrain prosecuted some of the more than 1,000 people detained in the aftermath of protests that rocked the kingdom in February, did not initially allow appeals.

Bahrain subsequently transferred some of the cases to civilian courts and allowed them to hear appeals of verdicts handed down by the military tribunals.

Separately, BNA said the head of the body charged with implementing the recommendations of the inquiry was continuing to work, apparently responding to a report in the opposition Al Wasat daily that he had resigned.

The inquiry dismissed Bahrain's claim that Shia Iran had stoked unrest through its co-religionists, who complain of discrimination in access to land and state employment.

Continued clashes

Riot police in Bahrain fired tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades as they clashed on Sunday with hundreds of opposition supporters following the politically charged funeral of a 15-year-old boy.

Thousands of opposition supporters carrying Bahraini flags and chanting anti-government slogans converged on Sunday on the island of Sitra, south of the capital Manama, to mourn the death of Sayed Hashim Saeed.

Police earlier tried to seal off the site of the funeral to prevent crowds from gathering. The opposition says the teenager died on Saturday after a tear gas canister fired at close range hit him in the chest.

Also on Sunday, Bahrain's new police chief announced that the kingdom would hire an additional 500 police officers "from all sections of Bahrain society", according to a statement from the country's Information Affairs Authority.

The government has pledged to undertake reforms following the release of a report in November that outlined human rights abuses carried out by the government during this year's unrest.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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