On Tuesday 4th September, the Alkhalifa Appeal Court read out the dictator’s decision to uphold his earlier decision to jail the leaders of the Revolution. In June 2011 the 21 leaders had been “tried” by the military court which sentenced eight of them to life terms; the others to 5-15 years.
It was a political decision that was seen as revenge by the dictator. That decision was condemned by almost every independent human rights body in the world. When the Bissioni Commission investigated regime’s crimes it called for the release of all political prisoners including the leading figures. Alkhalifa allies; most notably USA and UK called for the release of the leaders. But when the Appeal court was convened last month the leaders refused to attend after it became clear that it was acting on orders from the top authorities. The show trial gradually transformed into chaos as it became clear that the decision would be political. They demanded that their defence witnesses be allowed to speak openly, but the dictator refused and insisted that they could only speak behind curtains. The leaders became convinced that the “retrial” by a civilian court was nothing more than a smoke screen. The decision would be the same and there was no point in attending the procedures as the enemy and the judge were transformed into one.When the Alkhalifa decision reached them, the leaders reacted in one fashion; congratulating each other on what they saw as vindication of their calls for regime change. The Al Khalifa regime has become so intolerable that whatever happens would be less painful that their rule. They should not be allowed, under any circumstances, to remain in power. The leaders have their conscience completely cleared as this new decision erodes any remnants of hope in a reformed Alkhalifa regime. To them, the number of years of their sentences has no real meaning. Whether the sentence is ten years or life makes little difference to the situation. If they are released today they may be detained again in few years. This has happened repeatedly in the past three decades and will continue to happen if the Alkhalifa remain in power. Wisdom dictates that any price is right for their removal after the world has witnessed the wickedness of a regime of evil and crime.The world’s reaction to the Alkhalifa decision has been unanimous in condemnation. Brian Dooley of Human Rights First said: “The crackdown in Bahrain continues in the courts and on the streets. The denial of the men’s appeals shows the regime has little intention to reform. Bahraini government claims that they are on the path to human rights progress appear to be a sham,” Dooley was denied courtroom entry in May 2011 when he arrived to observe the men’s military trial. The United States government sent observers to the dissidents’ trial and knows this has not been a fair legal process.“Today’s court decision is yet another blow to justice and shows once more that the Bahraini authorities are not on the path of reform but seem rather driven by vindictiveness,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, who also noted that many of the defendants have testified that they were tortured during their initial detentions. “Instead of upholding the sentences…the Bahraini authorities must quash the convictions for the 13 men who are imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their human rights and release them immediately and unconditionally,” she added.In a statement yesterday, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the White House stated that the US is “troubled” by the appeal verdict:UK’s Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt said: “I am very disappointed at the Bahraini civilian court’s decision to uphold all the sentences of 13 political activists in Bahrain. While the UK welcomed Bahrain’s decision to review these cases in a civilian court, as recommended by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), we remain concerned about the strength of the convictions. Reports at the time these individuals were sentenced, which were acknowledged by the BICI, suggested that some had been abused in detention, denied access to legal counsel and were coerced into confessing.Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, said the court ruling “only compounds the travesty of justice that has characterized this case from the beginning.”Meanwhile, the news giant CNN is under criticism for refusing to air a documentary it had commissioned and produced that featured a lengthy segment on the uprising against the U.S.-backed regime in Bahrain. The segment featured interviews with Bahraini activists facing repression and footage of U.S.-armed government forces shooting unarmed protesters. The documentary, called “iRevolution: Online Warriors of the Arab Spring,” aired once on CNN for a U.S. audience. But it never aired on CNN International as initially intended, meaning no audiences in the Middle East or elsewhere outside of the United States ever watched it. CNN has refused to provide an explanation for the move but critics call it political censorship. The correspondent on the Bahrain segment, Amber Lyon, said she was told by CNN colleagues that the network had received numerous complaints from the Bahraini government.Bahrain Freedom Movement
7th September 2012