Trial of Journalists Continues in Bahrain

Posted June 15th, 2011 at 11:45 am (UTC-5)
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A Bahrain court will allow four journalists accused of publishing false stories about the kingdom's anti-government crackdown to call witnesses in their trial.

The court made its decision at a Wednesday hearing for former editor-in-chief Mansoor al-Jamri and three other journalists who worked for al-Wasat, one of the kingdom's leading independent newspapers. One journalist is being tried in absentia. They are charged with publishing misleading information.

At the hearing, Al-Jamri said his newspaper had been deliberately deceived by plotters in Saudi Arabia who provided false information.

The journalists' trial is part of the Bahraini government's broad crackdown on perceived dissent. Rights groups say hundreds of people are on trial in what they call a revenge move by the kingdom's Sunni rulers who put down anti-government protests led by the country's Shi'ite majority.

The trial for the journalists is one of only a few cases that have gone before a civilian court instead of a special military tribunal.

International rights groups have been urging Bahrain to stop all cases before the military tribunal because of allegations that the proceedings are politically motivated.

On Tuesday, the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch said most of the convictions from the military tribunal have been for “blatantly political charges” such as participating in unauthorized demonstrations and “incitement of hatred against the regime.”

Separately, Amnesty International has called on Bahraini authorities to immediately open an independent investigation into allegations of torture and to throw out any confessions extracted under duress.

In another development Wednesday, Bahrain has announced it is suing the British newspaper The Independent for alleged libel for a series of articles written mostly by its Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk.