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Tue 10 Jan 2012 04:44 PM

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Bahrain orders retrial for pair sentenced to death

Two men were found guilty of running over and killing policemen during protests last year

Bahrain orders retrial for pair sentenced to death
Flashback to the Bahrain uprisings in February

A Bahraini appeal court has ordered the retrial of two men
sentenced to death for running over and killing two policemen during
pro-democracy protests last year, state media reported.

However, a US rights campaigner said he had been prevented
from entering Bahrain to observe a separate appeal hearing this week for
medical workers jailed on charges including incitement to overthrow the
government during the protests.

Bahrain remains in crisis after the Sunni Muslim monarchy
repressed the protests led by majority Shi'ites by force last year.
Demonstrators continue to clash daily with police but in smaller protests
scattered throughout the Gulf island state.

Courts are reviewing many cases after a rights commission,
formed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa after international criticism of the
crackdown, talked of torture and abuse during over two months of martial law.

The state news agency BNA said the court of cassation, the
kingdom's highest appeals court, had overturned the death sentences for the two
Bahrainis on Monday as well as a life jail sentence for one other.

The original verdicts were handed down by a military court
in May but the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) criticised the
military courts in its report issued in November.

The men face a retrial in a civil court, BNA said. The
incident happened during an operation to retake control of a traffic roundabout
in Manama which had become the centre of the protests in February and March.

Bahrain hosts the US Fifth Fleet that patrols the Gulf from
where a large portion of world oil supplies are shipped. The government says
Shi'ite power Iran is fomenting the unrest, a charge opposition figures and
activists deny.

Opposition groups are demanding a retrial or revoking of
sentences in other cases. These include that of 21 political figures, rights
activists and a blogger accused of leading the protests to change the political
system violently. Eight of them received life sentences.

Rick Sollom of the US-based organisation Physicians for
Human Rights said in message on Twitter that he had been held at Manama airport
this week for hours and refused entry.

Sollom had wanted to attend an appeal by 20 medical workers
sentenced to 5 to 15 years on charges including incitement to overthrow the
government and attempting to occupy a hospital.

"The Bahrain Government continues to undermine its
stated commitment to human rights reform by holding sham trials, attacking
human rights defenders and denying access to international observers,"
said Brian Dooley of US group Human Rights First in a statement criticising
Sollom's treatment.

A statement by the human rights ministry said Sollom would
be welcome after Feb 22, the deadline the government has set itself for
implementing the BICI recommendations.

The medics' trial provoked heavy international criticism,
prompting prosecutors to order an appeal hearing in a civilian court. A court
this week set the next session for March 19.