10 May 2017 – Bahrain’s High Appeals Court today upheld the death sentence against Maher Abbas Al-Khabbaz. Maher Khabbaz was convicted of premeditated murder of a police officer with a flare gun on 19 April 2014. The court also sentenced six other men to imprisonment in connection to the murder of police officer Asef Khan on 14 February 2013. The defendants denied these charges and claimed that interrogators extracted their confessions under torture. The court did not allow the defendants to have an independent medical commission investigate these torture allegations or inspect their bodies for wounds.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: “Maher Al-Khabbaz’s torture and unfair trial put him at risk of illegal execution. Bahrain is hosting a major event this week in the FIFA world congress. But Maher’s case is the reality of dictatorship in Bahrain, which the no prestige events can whitewash.”
The trial was filled with contradictions: according to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, the prosecution never presented the flare gun which allegedly killed the officer in court, while the safety manager of the maritime company from which the prosecution claimed the murder weapon had been stolen asserted that none of the company’s assets had been stolen. The defence argued that the injuries Asef Khan sustained could not have been caused by a flare gun, but the court ignored their argument.
There are currently ten Bahrainis sentenced to death for politically related charges, the most recent sentences passed in March 2017. In all, thirteen people are on death row, six of them sentenced in March alone.
In January 2017, Bahrain executed three torture victims following unfair trials. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was “appalled” by the executions. The UN Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions described them “extrajudicial killings”.