22 August 2017 – Bahrain’s Fourth Higher Criminal Court today held its first hearing in the mass trial of 60 Bahrainis, including four women, charged under the anti-terrorism law with forming a terror cell and aiding the escape of inmates of the notorious Jau Prison in January 2017. The trial was postponed to 3 October 2017. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) warns that the mass trial is highly unlikely to be fair or in accordance with international norms.
Of the 60 defendants, 24 are outside Bahrain and being tried in absentia. Four of the defendants are women who have been held in pre-trial detention over six months, since February.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, BIRD: “It is very likely that Bahrain’s mass trial of sixty people will be neither credible nor fair. Human rights defenders and journalists have been convicted under the same law. In anti-terrorism trials, the state regularly denies defendants access to legal counsel and often convicts based on coerced confessions. UN anti-terrorism experts must be allowed to visit Bahrain and observe the trial.”
BIRD and Article 19 have criticised the use of the anti-terrorism law to prosecute human rights defenders, opposition critics, and journalists. Under the anti-terrorism law, defendants face up to life imprisonment and the deprivation of their citizenship.
The human rights organisations last year reported: “Detained individuals are often denied their right to contact their family and lawyer, and may be interrogated, presented to the prosecution and even go to trial without a lawyer. During long periods of pretrial detention, many suspects and victims of arbitrary arrests are allegedly subjected to ill-treatment, torture and coerced to confess to pre-prepared charges.”