Washington, DC – Human Rights First today said that expected Sept. 4 verdicts in three closely watched Bahraini court cases could make Tuesday a potentially transformative day for human rights in the Kingdom. Among those who will learn their fate on Tuesday are 13 leading dissidents, 28 medics and Zianab Al Khawaja, all prosecuted for exposing the truth behind the Bahrain regime’s false claims of reform.
“It’s hard to remember a day that could – if the right decisions are made – change the human rights picture so radically in Bahrain, “said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “If the Bahrain regime has the vision and courage to release these people it could be a game changer.”
Appeal verdicts are expected in the cases of 13 of Bahrain’s most prominent dissidents who, after a show trial in military court, were originally sentenced in June 2011 to terms of between two years and life in prison. That group includes leading human rights activist Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, as well as Hassan Mshaima’, ‘Abdelwahab Hussain, Dr ‘Abdel-Jalil al-Singace, Mohammad Habib al-Miqdad, Abdel-Jalil al-Miqdad, Sa’eed Mirza al-Nuri, Mohammad Hassan Jawwad, Mohammad ‘Ali Ridha Isma’il, Abdullah al-Mahroos, ‘Abdul-Hadi ‘Abdullah Hassan al-Mukhodher, Ebrahim Sharif, Salah ‘Abdullah Hubail al-Khawaja.. The men were convicted of various charges, including “setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution.” In May 2011, Dooley was denied entry at the courtroom when he arrived to observe the 13 men’s military trial.
He was at an early court hearing for the 28 medics in March 2012. The 28 medical professionals awaiting verdicts on Tuesday include nurses, consultants, surgeons and ambulance drivers. The charge sheets against them include inciting hatred against the regime and taking part in an illegal gathering. The medics dispute the charges and have maintained that they were just doing their jobs as medics. One of the medics, Dr Nabeel Tammam, told Human Rights First, “They have no case against the medics, all confessions were taken under torture.”
In addition to treating those injured in the uprising, Dooley notes that the medics were likely targeted by the regime for telling the world what was happening in Bahrain or for being perceived as associated with the protests. Another 20 medics who were sentenced by the military court in September 2011 had their appeal verdicts announced on June 14.
On Tuesday, Zainab Al Khawaja will also hear the verdict against her for peaceful protesting against the regime. She is currently in detention awaiting the decision.
“Each of these 42 defendants deserves to be unconditionally and immediately released. Though it would be a surprising step for the Bahrain authorities to do so, these cases do represent Kingdom’s best chance to show that they are truly committed to human rights reform,” concluded Dooley. “It’s time for Bahrain to get serious about fulfilling the reform promises it made and it’s time for the rest of the world, including the United States, to publicly decry its failure to do so.”