10-3-2013By Diana Sayed
Human Rights Defenders Program
*Update: Naji Fateel was due in court for his appeal hearing on November 18, 2013, which has now been adjourned until December 29, 2013.
This week, a Bahraini court ruled in the case of the “February 14 Coalition” in which 50 individuals were tried under the Kingdon’s terrorism law. Among those sentenced was human rights defender Naji Fateel, who was given 15 years in prison.
When he first appeared before the newly-established Fourth Criminal Court – a court led by the son of Bahrain’s head of parliament and that includes a member of the Kingdom’s royal family – Fateel took off his shirt to reveal evidence of torture on his back. It was a poignant moment in a trial that lacked basic due process during which claims of torture were summarily ignored.
Last month, on September 5, Fateel’s legal defense team submitted a letter requesting a change of court due to the court’s inherent conflict of interest and requested that a medical committee investigate the defendant’s allegations of torture. The defense team ultimately withdrew from the session based on Article 211 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Bahrain, a statute that says the defense team can refuse the judge’s ruling. Accordingly, the defendants issued a statement boycotting the trial for reasons that included the lack of an independent judiciary.
Human Rights First condemns the politically-motivated charges, sham trials, and continued judicial harassment against human rights defenders in Bahrain, including Fateel. He should not be sitting in a Bahraini prison. He should be released immediately and Bahrain refocus its attention on working to ensure that all trials fully conform to international fair trial standards.