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Court refuses to investigate detained activists' complaints of torture, attempts to assign new defence lawyers

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has reported that the trial of 25 Bahraini activists held on 23 December 2010 in the Third Major Criminal Court has been adjourned to 6 January 2011. The court assigned 19 lawyers to replace the 21 lawyer defence team that withdrew after the court refused to investigate the defendants complaints of being tortured by Bahraini security personnel. The activists stood before the court with torture marks on their bodies.

The 23 December hearing was held with the court appointed defence team in attendance. The defence team attempted to gain the consent of the 23 defendants that are being held in custody, however the defendants insisted on being represented by their chosen legal team and refused the representation by the appointed lawyers. Afterward, many of the lawyers withdrew from the case, saying they did not wish to represent the defendants. The court, presided by Ibrahim Sultan elZayed, ignored the wishes of the defendants and lawyers and adjourned the case to 6 January.

ANHRI, as an IFEX member, sent monitors to attend the trial on 9 December. The monitors' report noted irregularities that point to a lack of fairness in the trial, particularly with respect to the right of the defendants to a fair and impartial investigation under court control to verify the incidents of torture, which would void all confessions extracted under physical or emotional duress.

ANHRI said, "In such a significant case and with abundant indications that the defendants have been tortured, the court is urged to take all possible actions to put to rest the doubts cast on the fairness of this tribunal. Not only the activists need to be able to trust in the fairness of the trial, but the lawyers and local and international public opinion as well. This is a serious test of Bahrain's credibility, the integrity of its judiciary and the extent to which respect is shown for local and international law, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

Click here to read the trial monitors' report

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