Bahrain court adjourns protest leaders' appeals

AP , Wednesday 29 Jun 2011

Bahraini tribunal adjourns hearing of opposition leaders' appeals to September 3 days before reconciliation talks with opposition

In this Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011 file photo, Bahraini anti-government protesters chant slogans as protesters hold up photos of Bahraini King Hamad Bin Issa Al Khalifa reading "Go Out" at the Pearl roundabout in Manama, Bahrain, (AP).

Bahrain's special security tribunal handling the appeals of 21 opposition leaders convicted of plotting against the state on Wednesday adjourned the hearing until September.

The postponement in the high-profile case comes just three days before Bahrain's Sunni rulers plan to open reconciliation talks with the opposition they crushed during a wave of Shiite-led demonstrations demanding greater freedoms earlier this year.

The security court's decision to adjourn the appeals hearing for the 21 prominent opposition figures has further eroded the appetite of the biggest Shiite party, Al Wefaq, to participate in the reconciliation talks, which are set to begin on Saturday.

The appeals hearing is now set for Sept. 11.

Washington has encouraged dialogue in the island nation, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

The U.S. has also urged Bahrain's Sunni monarchy to meet some the opposition's demands. Washington has also expressed concern about the severity of the sentences and the use of military-linked security courts against the protesters in the tiny kingdom.

But Washington has taken little action against Bahrain's monarchy for its harsh crackdown, which was backed up by a Saudi-led military force that came to the aid of Bahraini rulers in March when martial law was imposed to quell dissent.

At least 31 people have died since February when the country's Shiite majority - inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Middle East - started a campaign for greater freedoms and an end to the Sunni hold on power.

Hundreds of Shiite opposition supporters and leaders have been arrested or dismissed from state jobs and universities.

The prosecution of opposition supporters after the emergency rule was lifted June 1 signals that the kingdom's Sunni rulers do not intend to end their relentless pursuit of dissidents, despite appeals for dialogue.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's is expected to address the public later on Wednesday and outline the aim of the government-arranged dialogue.

Wefaq leaders say they will decide if they'll join the talks after hearing the king's speech. They have previously demanded that authorities roll back security measures and halt the trials against activists before talks begin.

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