By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Friday, January 14, 2011
MANAMA: A Bahraini court named Thursday a new group of lawyers to defend 25 Shiite activists accused of “terrorism,” the third defense lineup since their trial began last October.
The new team was named as the latest hearing began involving the 25, including two being tried in absentia. The accused are charged with forming an illegal organization, engaging in and financing terrorism and spreading false and misleading information.
Some of the accusations carry a life sentence, one of the lawyers has said.
Defense lawyers quit after the trial started in October, complaining that the court had not sufficiently investigated torture allegations.
About 20 court-appointed lawyers walked out last week, after the defendants rejected them. They argued that laws do not permit them to defend the accused without their consent.
Bahrain denies there is torture of detainees and the government says it will thoroughly investigate any complaints.
It said that medical examinations of 13 defendants who had complained of torture found no sign of mistreatments and that six others only had minor wounds due to hand-cuffs.
Justice Minister Khaled bin Ali al-Khalifa has referred the 20 to a judicial disciplinary committee for withdrawing, accusing them of trying to hamper the course of justice, local media reported.
Five lawyers of the new team withdrew Thursday after the defendants rejected them.
At the opening hearing on Oct. 28, the 23 defendants who appeared in court pleaded not guilty and alleged that they had been tortured.
The court declined to probe those claims, but a government statement the same day said a “senior forensic science consultant” had examined 13 defendants and concluded they had not been tortured.
One of the original lawyers, Mohammad al-Tajer said in December that the defense team had renewed calls for an investigation at the second hearing Nov. 11.
Some of the accused, in particular leaders of the Haq movement, have been arrested in the past but were pardoned by the king during trials or before legal proceedings started.
In the 1990s, it was plagued by a wave of Shiite-led unrest that has abated since 2001 reforms restored the Gulf state’ s elected Parliament, which was dissolved in 1975, and turned the emirate into a constitutional monarchy.
Parliament’ s powers were diluted, however, with the formation of an appointed upper house. – A.F.P., Reuters