By Joanne Bladd
Activists given death penalty over policeman murders, rights group urge overturn of verdicts
A Bahrain court has adjourned the appeal hearing of four activists
sentenced to death for the murder of two policemen during the Gulf kingdom’s
recent political unrest.
Lawyers for the four defendants issued pleadings but requested more
time from the court in order to prepare their cases, state news agency BNA
The National Safety Court issued death penalties against the four men
on April 28 for the deaths of policemen Kashef Ahmed Mandhour
and Mahmoud Farooq Abdulsamad.
A further three men were sentenced to life imprisonment by
the court, which was established in the wake of a nationwide crackdown on
protests in Bahrain.
Bahrain last issued a death sentence in 2007, and prior to
that had condemned only one person die over the preceding three decades. That
verdict came in the mid-1990s, during the greatest unrest Bahrain had seen
before this year's protests.
Human Rights Watch said last week that Bahrain should
suspend prosecution of civilians in military courts and set up an impartial
body to look into allegations of torture. It also urged Bahrain to overturn the
death penalty sentences, noting the trial lasted less than two weeks.
Bahrain banned protests when it imposed martial law in March
and invited troops from Sunni-led Gulf neighbours to help quash weeks of
protests by pro-reform demonstrators.
Hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested since then
while many more have been sacked from government jobs and state-linked
companies, rights groups say.
At least 29 people and four police were killed during the
clashes, at least three of whom were run over by cars around March 16.
Bahrain has said it will lift the state of emergency on June
1, but said Gulf troops may remain in the kingdom to maintain order.