Testimonies at court on the event at the Bahrain Airport incident

2nd January 2006

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is following with great concern the trial of 21 activists. The following are updates of court sessions on 23rd and 30th January 2006 [1].

Eighteen people are currently in custody following the airport incident which was sparked by the arrest of cleric Sheikh Mohammed Sanad who called for a referendum supervised by the United Nations on the legitimacy of the political regime. Sheikh Mohammed was later released.

1. Details of the session on 23rd January [2]

Seven men appeared for the second time before the Lower Criminal Court on charges relating to violent clashes during a demonstration at the airport on December 25th. Nader Ebrahim AbdulEmam, aged 32, Hasan Abdulnabi, 25, Bader Ahmed Al Jazeri, 40, Yasser Khalifa, 31, Jawad Al Salman, 24, Hasan Majeed Al Jashi, 20 and Qasim Hasan Khaeel, 19, all deny the charges.

They each face three charges, damaging public property, assaulting police and causing a disturbance in a public place, and taking part in an illegal gathering. Each could face up to seven years in prison if convicted of all the charges, said their lawyer Mohammed Al Mutawa. He said the court had so far only addressed the damage issue.

The airport demonstration was sparked by the arrest of cleric Sheikh Mohammed Sanad on his return from Iran. Sheikh Mohammed was later released. Eight witnesses testified at the hearing. Four said that airport property was damaged by crowds trying to flee the arrivals area and was not deliberately sabotaged. Witnesses also claimed that riot police assaulted demonstrators and caused additional damage to airport property in the melee.

Judge Ebrahim Sultan Al Zayed adjourned the case until February 4th, when he said a CD purporting to contain photographic evidence taken during the clashes would be shown by the defence.

Salmaniya Medical Complex reports of more than 10 people who were allegedly injured by police will also be submitted at the hearing. Witness Zahra Muradi, from Muharraq, told the court that the violence was started by security forces. She said she was paying her telephone bill at the Batelco outlet at the airport when the demonstration began.

Ms. Muradi said she stayed at the airport after meeting acquaintances from the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society who were taking part in the demonstration. "Foreigners" were ushered out of the airport and all doors except one were sealed off by security forces, said Ms. Muradi.

Riot police advanced from both sides on protesters who were sitting on the floor and a stampede occurred as people rushed to leave via the sole exit, said witness Ali Salman.

Mr. Salman claimed the damage to airport property was caused during the stampede and that riot police assaulted protesters in the car park of the airport. Mr. Al Mutawa said outside the court that there was no evidence to support the charge that any of his clients damage airport property.

All seven were further remanded in custody until the next hearing. They did not seek bail, but were allowed a brief reunion with relatives at the court complex. Public prosecution officials allowed detainees to enter the waiting area and greet jubilant relatives and supporters, after the court session closed.

Zainab Ahmed Rashid, aged 50, and Kadhim Khalifa, 55, parents of detainee Yasser Khalifa, 29, were reunited with their son. Ms Rashid had said earlier that she was worried about her son's health because he suffers from bronchial asthma and hemorrhoids.

He has been held since going to Khamis Police Station for questioning on December 28th, after police issued an arrest warrant in his name on December 27th. "He told me not to worry, but he looked very tired. He told me that he had been taken to hospital while in custody," said Ms. Rashid. "He's not in very good health - he has bronchial asthma and also suffers from hemorrhoids.

"The last time I saw him was in court on January 7th. He just looked tired. Of course, how can someone go to prison and come out looking comfortable? "I saw him here today. He was crying." Ms Rashid said her son's children Ammar, 11, and Bayan, five, had not been told their father was in custody, but they constantly asked about him. "They ask about their father and we tell them he's travelling; how do you tell a five-year-old his father is in prison?" she said. "Even Ammar doesn't know. What does an 11-year-old understand about these things?"

Mr. AlMutawa said the defendants could face up to seven years in prison, if found guilty of all three charges, which relate to Article number 155 (part A), Article 178 and Article 179, from the criminal law. Article 155 (part A) alone carries a maximum jail term of five years and 178 up to two years, he said. Photographs taken on the night of the clashes will be shown at the next hearing to support the defence case, said Mr. AlMutawa, adding that he hoped the openness of the hearing was a positive sign.

2. Details of the session on 23 January [3]

A judge yesterday ordered police to take three hunger-striking Bahraini prisoners to hospital for treatment. The men on trial, have been on hunger strike since Friday, they told a Lower Criminal Court judge yesterday. Mohsin Abdulla Al Salman, 23, Hassan Hamad Al Haddad, 25, and Ismail Hassan Makki said they had been refusing food and drink for four consecutive days, to protest their innocence and demand their release.

They each face three charges, damaging public property, assaulting police and causing a disturbance in a public place and, thirdly, taking part in an illegal gathering.

The men alleged in court that they had been mistreated in custody and that officials had interfered with their religious practices. Detainees were only being given one 'turba' (clay pallet used during prayer), even though their families sent them at least five, Makki told the judge. Officials are interfering with detainees' religious rights, which are human rights, said Makki.

Defence lawyers Ahmed Al Arayedh, Shahzalan Al Khamees and Mohammed Al Mutawa asked that all three be released on bail, but this was refused. They also asked that the men be taken for treatment at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC), on the basis that the Interior Ministry clinic was not equipped to treat them. Their physical condition has seriously deteriorated while in prison, Ms. Al Khamees told Judge Ebrahim Sultan Al Zayed.

Judge Al Zayed ordered that they by taken to the SMC for treatment and that they be provided with whatever religious facilities they need. The lawyers also asked the judge to order that the three be tried together with seven other defendants, who appeared earlier on similar charges. Judge Al Zayed agreed and all 10 will now appear together before the court on Saturday.

A CD containing photographic evidence taken during the clashes, brought by the detainees' lawyers and video of the incident submitted by the prosecution, will be shown at Saturday's hearing, lawyers said. They said they would also submit medical reports from the SMC on more than 10 people, who were allegedly beaten by riot police.

Detainees briefly met with families, supporters, activists and religious figures, who gathered in the waiting area outside the court yesterday. Supporters also rallied outside the Public Prosecution in the Diplomatic Area, carrying placards and photographs of detainees as well as addressing passers by via loud speaker.

The 17 men arrested on charges relating to the airport clash were originally being tried in separate groups- two groups of seven men and one group of three.

Mr. Al Salman, Mr. Al Haddad, and Mr. Makki will now join Nader Ebrahim Abdulemam, 32, Hasan Abdulnabi, 25, Bader Ahmed Al Jazeri, 40, Yasser Khalifa, 31, Jawad Al Salman, 24, Hasan Majeed Al Jashi, 20 and Qasim Hasan Khaleel, 19, for a hearing on February 4.

Atif Mahdi Ahmed, Yousif Ahmed Hussain, 27, Fakari Abdulla, 40, Nasser Ali Nasser, 33, Mohammed Majeed Aljeshi, 24, and Abdulameer Madan, 23, Mohammed Hassan Ashor, 21, are said to be due in court on Sunday.

It is understood that lawyers may seek to have all 17 men tried together, since they face similar charges. Arrest warrants have been issued for three other men, lawyers confirmed.

Notes:

[1] For background on the airport-incident case, kindly refer to the BCHR report dated 16th of January, Ref:16010605

[2] Source: Gulf Daily News, 24th January 2006

[3] Source: Gulf Daily News, 31 January 2006