|Bahrain court postpones verdict on opposition figures||
The defendants who played leading roles in the month-long protests last year demanding drastic democratic reforms did not turn up in court, lawyers said, adding that the court set September 4 as a new date for its verdict.
Amnesty International criticized the decision saying the opposition leaders, whom it describes as “prisoners of conscience”, should be released and their convictions quashed.
“The defendants have endured months in detention already,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa Program, said in a statement.
“But instead of quashing their convictions and releasing them, the Bahraini authorities have resorted to the now-familiar tactic of postponing the hearing and toying with defendants, thus prolonging their ordeal and that of their families,” she added.
The watchdog also quoted Ghanim Alnajjar, an internationally recognized human rights expert who observed the court proceedings on behalf of Amnesty, as saying: “The decision to postpone the final verdict is unjustified, and is tantamount to a denial of justice.”
The 13 activists are being retried in a civil court after they were convicted, along with seven others who remain at large, of plotting to topple the Sunni ruling family.
Another defendant was acquitted.
The prosecution has dropped charges “related to the freedom of expression,” for saying things that were considered illegal in the past.
On trial is activist Abdulhadi Khawaja who ended in June a 110-day hunger strike.
Also on trial Hasan Musheime and Abdel Jalil al-Sankis, both leaders of the Shia Haq banned movement, as well as Sunni leftist Ibrahim Sharif, who heads the secular Waed group.
In June last year, a specially formed tribunal handed down lengthy jail terms against the 21 activists after convicting them of plotting to overthrow the regime.
Ten months later, Bahrain's highest appeals court ordered a retrial.
Bahrain came under strong criticism from international human rights organizations over last year's crackdown on the protests.
An international panel commissioned by King Hamad to probe the government's clampdown found out that excessive force and torture had been used against protesters and detainees.
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