Amnesty renews call for Bahrain to probe torture allegations
Amnesty International on Tuesday renewed its call for Bahrain to investigate allegations by 23 jailed Shiite activists whom it said have complained of torture both before and after their trial began.
"The Bahraini authorities must conduct a prompt and independent investigation into both these allegations of torture," Malcolm Smart, the London-based group's Middle East director, said in a statement.
The 23 jailed activists, along with two others who are being tried in absentia, are accused of forming an illegal organisation, engaging in and financing terrorism, and spreading false and misleading information, according to the indictment.
At the opening hearing, the 23 defendants appeared in court and pleaded not guilty, while alleging that they had been tortured. But the rights group quoted lawyers as saying abuse also took place after the start of the trial.
"According to their lawyers, the activists said they had been beaten in prison, deprived of sleep and forced to remain standing for long periods following the first session of their trial on 28 October," Amnesty International said.
"The abuses are said to have been committed to punish the defendants for telling the trial court at its first session that they had been tortured in pre-trial detention following their arrests in August and September," it said.
The court declined to investigate the allegations, but a government statement released the same day said that a "senior forensic science consultant" had examined 13 defendants who had alleged torture and concluded that they had not been.
The defendants' lawyers reiterated calls for an investigation at a second hearing, on November 11. The court has adjourned the trial until November 25.
In the 1990s, Bahrain was plagued by a wave of Shiite-led unrest that has abated since 2001 reforms restored the elected parliament, which was dissolved in 1975. The parliament's powers were diluted, however, with the formation of an appointed upper house.
© 2010 AFP