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(Washington, D.C.) — Amnesty International today chided the decision of the High Criminal Court of Appeal in Bahrain to postpone the verdict on the appeal of 13 opposition activists and prisoners of conscience. The final verdict for the activists, who were all convicted on charges related to pro-reform protests last year, is now set for September 4.
Dr. Ghanim Alnajjar, an internationally recognized human rights expert, who observed the court proceedings on behalf of Amnesty International said, "The decision to postpone the final verdict is unjustified, and is tantamount to a denial of justice."
The 13, who include prominent activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, were originally sentenced in June 2011 by military court to between two years and life in prison on charges including "setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution." All of the men maintain their innocence.
Amnesty International considers the 13 opposition activists to be prisoners of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The human rights organization has repeatedly called on the Bahraini authorities to quash their convictions and release them immediately and unconditionally.
"The defendants have endured months in detention already," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program. "Instead of quashing their convictions and releasing them, the Bahraini authorities have resorted to the now-familiar tactic of postponing the hearing and toying with defendants, further prolonging their ordeal and that of their families."
Today's decision comes days after Bahrain authorities announced the postponement to August 16 of the appeal hearing on the case of Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, who is serving a three-month prison sentence over a libel case in relation to one of his tweets.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.