Boy (11) on trial in Bahrain accused of protesting


AT A time when most 11-year-old boys are looking forward to the school holidays, Ali Hasan is preparing for his trial.

This morning, the primary school pupil from suburban Manama will stand in court and listen as the case against him is spelt out. The prosecution case: that Ali helped protesters block a street with rubbish containers and wood during demonstrations last month. Ali’s defence: that he’s a child who was just playing with friends in the street.

“On the day before I was arrested, there was some fighting in the streets near my house between the demonstrators and the police,” Ali said by phone from his home. “The demonstrators had blocked the street by setting fire to tyres and help from the containers which people use to dispose their rubbish. The day after this I went to the street with two of my friends to play. It was around 3pm. While we were playing there, some police forces came towards us which made us panic. My friends managed to run away . . . but I was so scared by the guns they were carrying that I couldn’t move and I was arrested.”

Bahrain’s rulers have been ruthless in pursuing those accused of involvement in 15 months of protest against the Khalifa dynasty, with prosecutions against doctors, nurses and rights activists. Ali Hasan’s case marks a new precedent in the legal crackdown against civil society. He is believed to be the youngest Bahraini to stand trial over the uprising.

After his arrest, Ali was taken to police stations where he said he was forced to confess to participating in anti-government demonstrations. “I was crying all the time. I told them I’d confess to anything to go back home,” he said. – (Guardian service)