Bahrain court upholds death sentences

Special court upholds death sentences for two men convicted of killing policemen during anti-government demonstrations.

bahraini protesters sentenced

The death sentences are only the third in more than 30 years issued against Bahraini citizens [Al Wefaq Party]

A Bahrain emergency appeals court has upheld death sentences for two men found guilty of killing police officers during recent unrest in the island kingdom.

Human rights activists said that punishments given to Ali Abdullah Hassan al-Singace and Abdul Aziz Abdul Redha Ibrahim Hussein in Sunday’s court rulings were designed to prevent more protests.

Qasim Hassan Mattar Ahmed and Saeed Abdul Jalil Saeed, two other men who were among the four initially sentenced to death on April 28, had their sentences reduced to life imprisonment, the Bahraini state news agency said.

The report did not say when the two executions would be carried out, but Mohammed Ahmed, a Manama-based legal expert, said they would first need to be approved by Bahrain’s king.

The appeals, like the trial before it, were heard in a special security court presided over by civil and military judges. It was set up under emergency laws implemented in March during a government crackdown on the Shia-led protests.

Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, questioned the ruling.

“This is a political case and it is aimed at stopping the protests,” he said by telephone. “It is believed that they were targeted because of their (political) activities.”

He said one of the two people sentenced to death had a full-length cast on his left leg when the killing took place.

“The man had a broken leg and was moving with crutches, how could he drive a car?” he added.

A hospital source said in March that at least two of four Bahraini policemen killed during the protests had been run over by cars.

The security court is separately trying 21 mostly Shia opposition leaders and political activists accused of plotting against the state. It last week sentenced a prominent Shia cleric and eight others to 20 years in prison for the alleged kidnapping of a police officer.

Charged with ‘incitement’

One activist, who spoke to Al Jazeera’s People & Power programme, has been charged by a military court with “incitement” to overthrow the government “using terrorist means”.

The activist, who has asked not to be named, was informed of the charges at a military trial on May 17. He said he was informed via telephone a day earlier that he was to appear before the court, but had not been told why.

The activist was accused of participating in an illegal gathering at the GCC roundabout. He was told that five witnesses had testified against him.

He said that he was told to plead guilty to the first charge and not guilty to the second. He refused, and pleaded not guilty to both. The process lasted about five minutes, he said.

The military court told him he would be called for sentencing on May 24, he told Al Jazeera. He added that he was having difficulty in finding a lawyer, as those he had spoken to were fearful of taking on such cases.

The activist had earlier been detained by Bahraini authorities on March 16, a week after he appeared on Al Jazeera’s People & Power.

“Well, what will happen if this revolution doesn’t work? I think we’re going to be destroyed with all means. I think they’re going to target, one-by-one … whoever appeared on a camera.

“The thing is, we all, we stand brave enough to [tell] the whole world that we don’t want this regime to be in power anymore,” he had told Al Jazeera.

“So I think it’s going to be really dangerous, and I believe it’s all about win or die.”

Bahrain, home of the US Fifth Fleet, faced a wave of Shia-led protests in February and March demanding democratic reform and an end to sectarian discrimination in the Sunni-ruled kingdom as some hardliners demanded a republic.

Bahrain’s rulers imposed emergency law and called in troops from neighbouring Gulf countries in March to quash the protests.

At least 29 people, all but six of them Shia, have been killed since the protests started, inspired by Arab revolts that ousted the autocratic rulers of Egypt and Tunisia.

Hundreds of people, mainly Shia, have been arrested and dozens put on trial in Bahrain’s crackdown on those who took part in protests. Others have been fired from government jobs. A state of emergency is due to be lifted on June 1.

Source: News Agencies