Middle East

Bahrain to give Jan 7 verdict on 13 activists

A Bahraini Shiite Muslim protestor flashes the sign of victory as others take part in clashes with riot police in the village of Karranah, West of Manama, on November 30, 2012. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH

DUBAI: Bahrain's Court of Cassation has set a January 7 date to announce its verdict in the trial of 13 Shiite opposition leaders jailed for their role in last year's unrest, their lawyers said on Monday.

At a hearing attended by foreign diplomats and a UN human rights representative, the court also rejected a request by the men to release them on bail pending the verdict, the lawyers said.

On Friday, Amnesty International urged Bahrain to release the 13 activists, saying doing so would prove the Gulf monarchy is "genuinely committed" to reform and respect for human rights.

The activists, including prominent opposition figure Abdelhadi al-Khawaja, took part in 2011 anti-government protests and were convicted by a military tribunal on charges that included "setting up terror groups to topple the regime."

In September, an appeals court upheld life sentences for seven of the activists, all Shiites, including Khawaja, and jail terms ranging from five to 15 years for the others.

The defendants, who played leading roles in the month-long Shiite-led protests last year, were retried in civil court after they were convicted by a special semi-military court of plotting to topple the Sunni ruling family.

Bahrain came under strong criticism from international human rights organisations over last year's deadly crackdown on the protests.

An international panel commissioned by King Hamad to probe the government's clampdown found that excessive force and torture had been used against protesters and detainees.





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