Bahrain to try police officers over ‘torture’

Five officers to be tried over alleged torture of detainee who later died in custody, weeks after probe into crackdown.

Bahrain unrest
 Bahrain’s rulers have pledged a policy of ‘zero tolerance’ towards any abuse of political detainees [Reuters]

Five police officers are to be put on trial in connection with the alleged torture of a detainee who later died in custody, Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority has said.

Nawaf Hamza, the country’s top prosecutor, said in a statement that two unnamed officers have been charged with torture and mistreatment, and three others with negligence for failing to report the incident.

No details were provided about the five officers or the detainee. There were also no information about when and where the alleged torture took place.

The prosecution of the officers follows promises by Bahrain to address shortcomings highlighted in a scathing report on rights abuses during weeks of anti-government protests in the Gulf nation earlier this year.

Last month, a special commission authorised by Bahrain’s Sunni rulers outlined the harsh treatment of anti-government protesters as state security forces put down the uprising by the country’s majority Shia population.

The 500-page report documented the use of torture, excessive force and fast-track trials by the government.

Earlier on Thursday, Hamza said the Gulf kingdom had concluded an investigation into an alleged Iranian-linked terrorism cell and planned to put eight suspects on trial next month.

Hamza said the unnamed suspects will be tried in the island nation’s High Criminal Court on charges of espionage and of having ties to an outlawed group that uses terrorism to achieve its goals.

Bahraini authorities in November accused the group of having links to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard and planning attacks against high profile sites, including the Saudi embassy and a Gulf causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. 

Court hearings are to begin in early January, with Iran rejecting the allegations.

‘Zero tolerance’

Meanwhile, Bahrain’s rulers have pledged a policy of “zero tolerance” towards any abuse of political detainees, to reinstate all public workers sacked for dissent and to allow foreign media into the kingdom.

The government said in a statement late on Wednesday that the measures were in line with the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).

The kingdom would demonstrate a “zero tolerance policy towards torture, inhuman treatment and degrading detention practices”, said the statement carried by state news agency BNA.

The steps also include “reinstating all public sector employees by 1 January 2012 charged with free speech activity”, said the English-language statement.

The government would also begin “signing contracts with leading international and regional news and feature channels and broadcast outlets guaranteeing a pluralist, inclusive media environment that encourages responsible journalism while minimising speech inciting hatred, and sectarianism”, it added.

‘Violence and sabotage’

Authorities on Saturday dropped charges relating to freedom of expression in 34 cases linked to anti-government protests in February and March, BNA reported.

The news agency cited Ali al-Bouainain, the prosecutor general, as saying the move affected 343 suspects, but that some of them facing other charges “including acts of violence and sabotage” would still be prosecuted.

In March, security forces boosted by about 1,000 Gulf troops, mainly from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, crushed the month-long uprising in Manama’s Pearl Square, epicentre of an anti-government movement that apparently took its lead from Tunisian and Egyptian protests.

The BICI said 35 people were killed in the unrest, including five security personnel, and five detainees who were tortured to death while in custody. Hundreds were also injured.

Source: News Agencies