Gilmore criticises Bahrain's decision to uphold life term
TÁNAISTE AND Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has criticised the upholding of a life sentence against Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a Bahraini activist and former employee of Dublin-based human rights group Front Line Defenders, saying his initial trial did not meet international standards.
Mr Khawaja, who previously worked as Middle East protection co-ordinator with Front Line, was arrested last year following anti-regime rallies in the Bahraini capital, Manama. The tiny Gulf kingdom, in which a Sunni monarchy rules a Shia majority, erupted in violence after activists were driven from a roundabout they had been occupying.
In June last year Mr al-Khawaja was convicted in a special military court and given a life sentence on charges of “organising and managing a terrorist organisation”, “attempting to overthrow the government by force and in liaison with a terrorist organisation working for a foreign country” and the “collection of money for a terrorist group”. Amnesty International said his conviction was based on a confession made under duress, and no evidence was presented showing he had used or advocated violence during the protests.
In April, Mr al-Khawaja, who also holds Danish citizenship, and a number of others were granted a retrial in a civil court. Earlier this year he undertook a 110-day hunger strike in protest at his sentencing. According to his daughter, the court yesterday upheld the convictions against the so-called “Bahrain Thirteen”, a group of opposition activists that includes Mr al-Khawaja.
“Verdict does not come as a shock, with no international consequences [and] accountability for [Bahrain] regime, they have no incentive to change,” Maryam al-Khawaja wrote on Twitter.
Mr Gilmore said he was “greatly concerned” over the decision to uphold what he said he viewed as “the unjust verdict of life imprisonment initially passed on Mr al-Khawaja” in June last year. “I have repeatedly stated my belief that Mr al-Khawaja’s initial trial did not meet international standards. I have strongly and actively supported international efforts urging the Bahraini government to exercise clemency and to allow his release on humanitarian grounds, particularly in light of clear findings documented by the Bahraini International Commission of Inquiry as to how Mr al-Khawaja was seriously ill-treated following his initial detention.”