Human-rights groups and officials including Catherine Ashton, Europe’s foreign-policy chief, expressed disappointment at the sentences handed down against 20 men for espionage and planning to oust Bahrain’s government.
Bahrain’s High Court of Appeal yesterday upheld verdicts against 20 activists and reduced another’s sentence. Abdulhadi al-Khawajah, who holds Danish and Bahraini citizenship, and 12 other men were sentenced to 15-25 years in prison. Guilty verdicts against seven other activists who were convicted of the same charges and are fugitives were also upheld.
The men led protests by Bahrain’s Shiite Muslims seeking a greater political voice in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom. They can challenge yesterday’s verdicts at the Court of Cassation.
“I am disappointed and concerned” by the appeals court’s decision “to uphold the harsh sentences against Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and 19 other individuals,” Ashton said in a statement today. “I hope the appeal before the Cassation Court will be fair, transparent and conducted in the full respect of international obligations Bahrain has subscribed to.”
Amnesty International yesterday urged Bahraini authorities to overturn the court decision and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the convicted men. U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said yesterday he was “very disappointed” by the court ruling and urged Bahrain to respect human rights and freedoms.
Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry said today that it’s proud of its “fair and independent judiciary.” The country “believes in and respects the principles related to the sovereignty of the law and the separation between authorities, in addition to non- intervention in the sentences passed down by the independent judiciary,” the ministry said in a statement.
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