Bahrain court orders retrial for imprisoned rights activist

[JURIST] The Bahrain Court of Cassation ruled Monday that human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] would be retried along with 20 others convicted on terrorism-related charges. Al-Khawaja, along with eight others, is serving a life sentence after a closed hearing where the Bahrain military National Safety Court found him guilty [JURIST report] in June 2011. On appeal, the Bahrain court ruled that they should be retried in a civilian chamber, but they must stay incarcerated pending a new verdict [Reuters report]. Al-Khawaja has been on a hunger strike for the past three months and will most likely continue despite the retrial decision. His family members have claimed he has been force-fed intravenously [AFP report], but the government has continually denied those allegations. No date for the rehearing has been set, and many rights groups as well as western governments continue to insist on Al-Khawaja's release.

Al Khawaja's appeal hearing was delayed last week after four independent human rights experts called for his immediate release [JURIST reports]. Earlier this month, Amnesty International reported that human rights violations continue [JURIST report] in Bahrain despite reported reforms. Al-Khawaja's lawyers and members of the Bahrain opposition appealed his conviction and UN experts' called for his release after international concern arose over his health due to repeated hunger strikes, which at that point had passed 50 days [JURIST reports]. Last May, Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez [official profile] condemned the Bahraini government for failing to adhere to the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners [text] regarding Al-Khawaja's physical and mental integrity. He was allegedly physically mistreated and perhaps tortured [JURIST report] while in custody, displaying visible physical signs of abuse at trial.

 

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