Bahraini activists ask appeals court for freedom

AFP , Tuesday 29 May 2012

The two Bahraini opposition activists Hasan Musheime and Abdel Jalil Al-Sankis say they were 'tortured' in detention and called on the judge to release them as they face charge of plotting to overthrow the Sunni monarchy

A Bahraini anti-government protester kicks away a tear gas canister fired by riot police Wednesday, May 16, 2012, in Daih, Bahrain, on the edge of the capital of Manama. (Photo: AP)

Two Bahraini opposition activists facing life terms for plotting to overthrow the Sunni monarchy told an appeals court on Tuesday they were "tortured" in detention and asked to be freed, their lawyers said.

Hasan Musheime and Abdel Jalil al-Sankis, both Shiites, testified that they were "prisoners of conscience" and called on the judge to release them, one of their lawyers told AFP on condition of anonymity.

According to prosecutors, prominent Shiite opposition activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who also faces a life sentence, refused to attend Tuesday's hearing which came just one day after he said he would end his 110-day hunger strike.

All three men were arrested during last year's mid-March crackdown on Bahrain's Arab Spring-inspired anti-government protests.

The activists are among 13 prisoners whose cases were being heard on Tuesday. All 13 defendants, seven of whom face life terms, are being retried in a civil appeals court.

The next hearing is set for 5 June, according to lawyers.

In June 2011, a specially formed tribunal handed down harsh jail terms for 21 mostly Shiite activists for allegedly plotting to overthrow the regime, including the 13 activists at Tuesday's hearing.

Ten months later, Bahrain's highest appeals court ordered a retrial in the case of all 21 activists.

Bahrain came under strong criticism from international rights organisations over last year's crackdown on the Shiite-led demonstrations.

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

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