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Fifty human rights organisations, including four IFEX members, express solidarity with activists on trial on fabricated charges

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, November 9th, 2010 - The undersigned organizations of this statement followed with great interest, the hearing set up by the High Criminal Court in Bahrain on Thursday, October 28, 2010 under strict security measures, for 27 political and human rights Shiiti activists.

The 27 individuals were brought before the court by Bahraini security prior to the Bahraini elections. They were accused of "working to overthrow the regime, and establishing a terrorist organization seeking to create hatred in the society". The fabricated charges came about as a result of their peaceful activities in support of the rights of Shiiti citizens and criticism of the policies of the Bahraini government.

The 28 October hearing took place in the presence of the media, but security had surrounded the court and prevented many of the activists and journalists from entering the hall to attend the hearing. After listening to the statements of the accused and the defense, the court decided to drop the charges of attempting to overthrow the regime, but it accepted the charge of composing a terrorist organization that seeks to promote hatred, a charge that carries serious penalties such as life in prison. The court decided to adjourn the case to November 11, 2010.

The organizations that signed this statement not only express their full solidarity with the activists and question the validity of the charges against them, but also confirm their strong indignation of the court's refusal of the defense's request that the activists be released with any safeguards the authorities deem appropriate. The organizations also condemned the court's failure to address the allegations of torture and ill-treatment in the way that is commensurate with the seriousness of the incident.

The organizations said, "It is better for the Bahraini government to resort to peaceful dialogue as a way to resolve their differences with their opponents, instead of using security attacks and fabricating serious criminal charges - especially because the activists have not committed any offenses other than the peaceful expression of their views against the government's policies in dealing with human rights . . . Shiiti citizens in particular are subject to severe discrimination based on a sectarian basis. The activists should not be punished by trial, torture or the threat of life imprisonment."

The organizations affirmed that the security crackdown launched by the Bahraini government against the activists is the largest against freedom of expression since the present King's crowning. During this period the government prohibited publishing and blocked many websites which reported on the prosecutions or the alleged torture of the detainees. These constitute major violations of the right to a just trial, freedom of expression and the circulation of information, in violation of national legislation and international human rights law.

The undersigned organizations call on the High Criminal Court to save Bahrain from the organized crackdown that is launched by the Bahraini security on the Shiiti activists, which threatens public freedoms, as well as the stability and security of the country. This requires the court to drop all fabricated charges, to investigate the allegations of torture and to hold accountable those responsible for these crimes. The organizations also call on all activists and supporters of freedom of expression inside and outside Bahrain to attend the court sessions, monitor them and expose any attempt to evade the law and the right to a fair trial.

Signed,

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom (Samir Kassir Eyes) - INTERIM MEMBER

Non-IFEX member signatories:

ACHR
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
Women's Petition Committee
ICAWC
Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies
Bahrain Human Rights Society
Protecting Human Rights Defenders in the Arab World
National Organization for Human Rights in Syria
Free Voice Organization for Defending Human Rights
Arab-European cultural Forum
ASDHOM
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
Arab-Euro Friendship Association
Aldameer for Human Rights
Committees for the Defense of Democracy Freedoms and Human Rights
Human Rights First Society - Saudia Arabia
Arab European Center for Human Rights and International Law
Arab Human Rights Defenders Union
Arab Human Rights Network Programme
Hurryat
Committees for the Defense of Democracy Freedoms and Human Rights - Syria
SHRIL-SY
SAF-Yemen
Tunisian Observatory for the Rights and Freedoms of Association
Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights
The Center of International Humanitarian Law & Human Rights
The Arab Organization for Human Rights - Syria (AOHRS)
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
ECESR
HMLC
Arab Foundation for civil society and human rights support
JWRL
El Nadim center
AHRLA
Egyptian constitutional and legal human rights society
OMDH
Bokra for media studies and human rights foundation
The Egyptian Observatory for Justice and Law
HCER
The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
ACIJLP
CTPJF
nwrcegypt
Group for Human Rights Legal Aid
Sawasya
National Center for Human Rights

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