Bahrain Upholds Activists’ Sentences, Appeals Process Exhausted
A Bahraini high court on Monday upheld the verdicts against 13 opposition figures who were appealing sentences handed out by a military tribunal in June 2011. The original charges included accusations of establishing an illegal group aiming to overthrow the political system, insulting the army openly, and exchanging intelligence information with a foreign country. Seven of the 13 received life sentences while the others received sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years. Seven other activists were tried in absentia, bringing the court’s total to 20 upheld convictions. The court reportedly took “just minutes” to reach a conclusion on the appeals.
Freedom House criticized these convictions, stating “These harsh sentences further demonstrate the failure of the Bahraini government to follow through on reforms and reflect the ongoing repressive environment for those opposing the actions of the regime.” Bahraini Attorney General Abdulrahman Al-Sayyad referred to the case as a “terror plot” and confirmed that the defendants have no further opportunities to appeal. Bahraini officials continue to defend the country’s judicial procedures and decisions, pointing to the presence of Amnesty International during the recent trial. However, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Middle East Program criticized the decision, saying, “This unjust decision will confirm the view of many that the judiciary is more concerned about toeing the government’s line than upholding the rule of law and the rights of all Bahrainis.”
Meanwhile in Kuwait, a court sentenced activist Rashid Saleh al-Anzi on Sunday and Ayyad al-Harbi on Monday to two years in prison each for insulting the emir on Twitter. Al-Anzi and al-Harbi are the second and third individuals to be sentenced for freedom of expression charges via social media; last June a man was sentenced to 10 years in prison after insulting the prophet Muhammad and Sunni leaders through social media.