'Blow to Justice': Bahraini Court Upholds Sentences for Activists

A demonstrator holds a picture of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who was among the activists was among 13 men convicted. (Photograph: Hasan Jamali/AP)

'Blow to Justice': Bahraini Court Upholds Sentences for Activists

An appeal court's ruling in Bahrain to uphold the sentences of 13 opposition activists on Tuesday, including seven who face life in prison, has been slammed by rights activists.

"Today's ruling is a clear proof of the fake justice in Bahrain," said the main opposition groups in a statement.

"Those are politically motivated verdicts that have no judicial value, because they have been based on a vindictive methodology," they said.

"There is no state in Bahrain. It is a tyrannical authority, and an oppressive government that tries to look like a (political) system while hiding security apparatuses that terrorize the people to silence its demands for democracy."

The Guardian's Ian Black reports that "The men, who include activists Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Ebrahim Sharif, were originally sentenced last summer to between two years and life in prison. The charges included espionage and 'setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution.' They later appealed in a civilian court. All the men maintain their innocence and are expected to appeal to the supreme court."

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui slammed the verdict as a "blow to justice."

"Today's court decision is another blow to justice and it shows once more that the Bahraini authorities are not on the path of reform but seem rather driven by vindictiveness.

"Today's verdict further engulfs Bahrain in injustice. Instead of upholding the sentences, ranging from five years to life in prison, the Bahraini authorities must quash the convictions for the 13 men who are imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their human rights and release them immediately and unconditionally," stated Sahraoui.

Brian Dooley of Human Rights First also criticized the upholding of the sentences. "The crackdown in Bahrain continues in the courts and on the streets. The denial of the men's appeals shows the regime has little intention to reform. Bahraini government claims that they are on the path to human rights progress appear to be a sham," stated Dooley.

Despite the Bahraini regime's brutal crackdown on protests, the U.S. has sold the country millions of dollars in arms.

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