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Dublin: Front Line Defenders condemns Government of Bahrain as legal charade fails to deliver justice for Abdulhadi Al Khawaja
On 04 September 2012, after what can only be described as a legal charade, the life sentence against human rights defender Abdulhadi Al Khawaja has been upheld. Abdulhadi is former Middle East Protection Coordinator with Dublin based Front Line Defenders,
The sentences against Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and his co-defendants have been confirmed by the Appeal Court despite a deeply flawed legal process.
The conviction of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja was originally handed down by a military court based on charges of allegedly plotting to overthrow the state.
Trial fails to meet international standards
"In what has clearly been a politically controlled process, the life sentence handed down to Abdulhadi Al Khawaja has been upheld despite the fact that no credible evidence was brought against him" said Front Line Defenders Executive Director Mary Lawlor in Dublin.
Failure to investigate credible allegations of torture
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry detailed the torture of Abdulhadi and others and specifically referred to the need to take remedial steps with regard to cases of citizens imprisoned on the basis of coerced confessions and unfair trials.
However, this so called retrial again proved to be a farce from which Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and the other defendants lawyers eventually felt they had to withdraw.
"Abdulhadi Al Khwaja worked with us in Front Line Defenders for three years as Protection Coordinator for the Middle East region. He was snatched from his home in the middle of the night, held incommunicado detention and beaten so badly that he required a 4 hour operation. His trial and treatment in detention fell far short of basic international standards and the charges against him do not bear any serious scrutiny. We believe that the trial and conviction of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja is politically motivated and he should be released immediately and unconditionally", added Ms Lawlor.
Ongoing harassment of human rights defenders
The organisation also expresses its concern at the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain in particular the sentencing of Nabeel Rajab, Director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights to three years in prison for"participating in illegal gatherings".
For further Information please contact: Jim Loughran - Head of Communications -+353 1 212 37 50 Mobille +353 (0)87 9377586
On 9 April 2011, up to 20 armed and masked policemen broke into the apartment in the middle of the night. Abdulhadi was dragged down the stairs and was beaten by up to five officers, including suffering kicks directly to the head. He was taken away unconscious.
The family was not told where Abdulhadi had been taken or what he was accused of. Also arrested were two of Abdulhadi's son-in-law, who were Detained until 24 January 2012.
As a result of the injuries suffered upon his arrest, Abdulhadi required a 4-hour surgery to repair damage to his face. He spent 7 days in hospital, where the surgery left him with permanent damage and metal plates in his face to hold his jaw together. He was then moved to the Al-Qurain Prison where he was put in solitary confinement in a cell measuring 2.5 x 2 meters. Abdulhadi was subjected to physical and mental torture while in detention, including threats of sexual violence, which he tried to make known at his trial.
On 8 May 2011,Abdulhadi was broughtby the Military Prosecutor before the National Safety Court o face a trial presided over by a military judge. The trial fell far short of international standards, and also did not meet Bahraini standards of fair trial.
Despite repeated attempts to attend the initial hearings, two international trial observers sent by Front Line Defenders were denied access to the courtroom.
On 22 June 2011, Abdulhadi was convicted and given a life sentence on charges of "organizing and managing a terrorist organisation", "attempt to overthrow the Government by force and in liaison with a terrorist Organisation working for a foreign country" and the "collection of money for a terrorist group."
All of these charges were filed based on emergency legislation that the Bahraini government introduced during the wave of civilian protest that started in February. No credible evidence was presented in the hearing to support any of these charges, and the BICI report conclusively ruled out any foreign involvement in the pro-democracy protests. ENDS'''