News / Middle East

Bahrain's Top Court Upholds Prison Terms for 13 Dissidents

Masked Bahraini anti-government protesters run through smoke after setting tires alight on a road in the village of Dumistan, January 7, 2013.
Masked Bahraini anti-government protesters run through smoke after setting tires alight on a road in the village of Dumistan, January 7, 2013.
VOA News
Bahrain's top court has upheld prison sentences against 13 opposition figures charged with plotting to overthrow the Gulf state's minority Sunni rulers in a 2011 uprising.

In a ruling Monday, the Bahraini court rejected appeals from all 13 dissidents, most of whom are majority Shi'ites. Eight of the defendants had been sentenced to life is prison by lower courts, while the other five had received terms of five to 15 years.

  • Anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Malkiya village, Bahrain, January 7, 2013.
  • Riot police chase anti-government protesters during clashes in Malkiya village, Bahrain, January 7, 2013.
  • An anti-government protester poses for a photograph flashing the victory sign in front of burning tires on a road in the village of Dumistan, Bahrain, January 7, 2013.
  • An anti-government protester prepares to throw a gasoline bomb at riot police during clashes in Malkiya village, Bahrain, January 7, 2013.
  • Anti-government protesters chant slogans as they hold banner and images of jailed opposition leaders in Malkiya village, Bahrain, January 7, 2013.

The opposition activists were convicted of forming "terrorist" groups to overthrow Bahrain's ruling Al Khalifa family and engaging in "intelligence contacts" with foreign powers - a reference to Shi'ite-majority Iran and Lebanese Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah. Iran denies providing anything more than moral support to Bahraini Shi'ites.

The Bahraini dissidents helped to launch mass anti-government protests in February 2011, demanding democratic reforms and an end to the Sunni monarchy's perceived discrimination against the Shi'ite majority.

Bahrain's main Shi'ite opposition group, Wefaq, responded to the upholding of the dissidents' prison terms by accusing the government of "political persecution." In messages posted on its Twitter feed, Wefaq said the "revolution continues and the sentences ... will energize it."

The U.S. State Department spokeswoman said it regretted Monday's court ruling. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington is concerned the decision "further restricts freedom of expression and compromises the atmosphere within Bahrain for reconciliation."

“We regret today’s decision by the Bahraini Court of Cassation to uphold the convictions and the sentences of these 13 activists. We’re concerned that this decision further restricts freedom of expression and compromises the atmosphere within Bahrain for reconciliation," said Nuland..

"We have repeatedly voiced our concern about these cases both publicly and privately and at the highest levels, and urged the government of Bahrain to abide by its international obligations, and we have also had embassy observers at the trial," she added. "So we call on the government of Bahrain to investigate all reports of torture, including those made by the defendants in this case, as it has pledged to do, and to hold accountable any who are found responsible.”

Amnesty International called the ruling an "unjust decision," saying in a statement that it was "further proof" of how Bahrain's justice system "simply cannot be relied on."

The London-based group again called on the Bahraini authorities to release the 13 opposition figures, saying they were imprisoned "simply for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly."

One of those sentenced to life in prison is Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a rights activist who held a 110-day hunger strike last year to protest his detention. Two other dissidents who received life terms are leaders of the Shi'ite opposition Haq movement -- Hassan Mashaima and Abduljalil al-Singace.

In addition to the 13 defendants, the court upheld prison terms for another seven dissidents who were tried in absentia and remain on the run.

Bahrain's 2011 protest movement was inspired by pro-democracy uprisings unfolding in other Arab nations at the time. The Bahraini government crushed the demonstrations in March that year, sending security forces to clear a protest encampment in Manama and bringing in troops from neighboring Sunni-led Gulf states to restore order.

Frequent street battles between Bahraini security forces and Shi'ite demonstrators have continued, mostly outside of Manama. At least 55 people have been killed since the uprising began.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs