Bahrain top court upholds two death sentences

Manama (AFP) –


Bahrain's top court Monday upheld death sentences against two men convicted of murdering a police officer in a bomb attack, after hearing the case for the second time following allegations of torture in custody.

The two accused -- Mohamed Ramadhan and Hussain Moosa, who are members of Muslim Sunni-ruled Bahrain's minority Shiite community -- were first sentenced in late 2014.

The Court of Cassation, the kingdom's highest court, in 2015 confirmed the death sentences but then overturned them after the emergence of a previously undisclosed medical report by the interior ministry.

According to Human Rights Watch, the report appeared to corroborate claims the detainees had been tortured to force them to confess to fabricated charges.

But an appeals court in January 2020 reinstated the sentences, a move that was condemned by Amnesty International which said the trial relied on "confession extracted through torture".

On Monday the top court upheld that verdict, the kingdom's prosecutor said in a statement.

"The Court of Cassation upheld today death sentences against two people in the killing of a police officer and attempt to kill other members of the force in a premeditated ambush using an explosive device in 2014," it said.

Ramadhan's wife, Zainab, with whom he has three children, wrote on Twitter after the verdict: "The terror of knowing that my husband can be executed by firing squad at any moment without proper notice is tearing me apart."

Bahraini authorities reiterated on Monday that the two men were behind a February 14 "terrorist" attack in Al-Dair, a village north of the capital Manama.

The two attacked security forces "using iron rods and Molotov cocktails to lure them towards an explosive device", they said.

The incident allegedly came amid a wave of attacks against police and other violent incidents that erupted after mass street protests in 2011 demanded an elected prime minister and a constitutional monarchy in Bahrain.

- 'Dark stain' -

Amnesty condemned Monday's ruling and described the trial as "grossly unfair".

"Bahrain's judiciary has decided to blatantly ignore court evidence of torture in the case... despite the repeated violations of the men's right to a fair trial since their arrest over six years ago," Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty's Middle East research director, said in a statement.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, advocacy director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) in London, also condemned the verdict, which now only requires ratification from the king before the sentence is carried out.

"Today's verdict is yet another dark stain in the struggle for human rights in Bahrain, demonstrating the regime's iron grip over the country's corrupt judiciary," he said in a statement.

"This horrendous injustice could not have happened without the tacit acceptance of Bahrain's western allies."

Authorities in the tiny kingdom have cracked down hard on dissent since the 2011 protests.

Bahrain claimed Iran trained and backed the demonstrators in order to topple the Manama government -- an accusation Tehran denies.

The kingdom rejects allegations of human rights violations and denies imposing discriminatory measures against its Shiite citizens.