BREAKING: Bahrain Court Upholds Reprisal Charges against Leading Rights Defender Al-Khawaja
- 28 November 2022 – Today, the Second Lower Criminal Court in Bahrain upheld two separate criminal charges levelled against Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja, his family stated.
- In the first case, Mr Al-Khawaja was convicted of insulting a public servant, in reference to a police officer at Jau Prison, where the sentence upheld against him is to pay a fine of 100 Bahraini Dinar (BHD), equivalent to £220 UK pounds or $266 US dollars. Initially, according to an official court document issued by the Ministry of Interior, this case included a charge of “insulting a foreign state” – namely Israel. If brought forward, this could lead to up to two years imprisonment and fine. Given lack of access to the cases, lawyers have not been able to determine if the charge has been dropped or is still pending.
- In the second case, heard by the same court, Mr. Al-Khawaja was convicted and fined 60 Bahraini Dinar (BHD) on the charge of breaking a plastic chair (10 BHD of which was the determined value of the chair), equivalent to £133 UK Pounds or $160 US dollars. This had occurred when Al-Khawaja was again denied his right to call his daughters in exile where he broke a plastic chair in protest, injuring his own hand.
- Al-Khawaja was not present in his trials today in person and was not able to grant power of attorney to his lawyer who he had instructed to represent him, despite a court order made last week to the Ministry of Interior to follow the procedure of granting his lawyer with power of attorney. This meant that Al-Khawaja had no recent legal representation at either trial in a flagrant violation of his rights.
- The lawyers Al-Khawaja had instructed to represent him were present today at court but had no access to his legal dossier and, without power of attorney, were unable to represent their client.
- In a blatant breach to his right to a fair trial, and in what was a clear due process violation, the judge proceeded with convicting Al-Khawaja on both charges.
- It is important to note that the judge did not wait for the power of attorney issue to be resolved before issuing these convictions against Al-Khawaja.
- The judgement is expected to be issued by the court tomorrow. It is unclear whether his lawyers will be able to obtain a copy providing the issue of the power of attorney.
- A letter dated 23 November 2022 with the case reference 07202209680, signed by the head of the Second Lower Criminal Court addressed to the Secretary General of the administration of rehabilitation and reform centre (the highest prison official), to grant the defendant power of attorney.
- The letter states: “The court stated that the court decided on 21 November 2022 that it has no objection in allowing the defendant to leave prison accompanied by guards in order to provide a power of attorney to the legal firm, Hassan Radhi, at the documentation office, and return him once the procedure is completed”.
Maryam Al-Khawaja commented: “The court has breached its own order, where our father to this date has been denied the right to grant his lawyer power of attorney. Denying his right to challenge the bogus charges levelled against him, including the most basic right of having access to information on what the charges contain.
The court has broken its own order, made just a week ago that was not fulfilled by the Ministry of Interior. Despite this blatant breach by the Ministry of Interior in not granting our father access to a power of attorney, the judge proceeded with upholding his conviction. This is a clear example of how the judicial system in Bahrain is not a dysfunctional system of justice but a highly functioning system of injustice. Through charges like this, the Bahraini regime is now actively profiteering from political prisoners who are made to work for free through the alternative sentencing law, to pay inflated phone charges within the prison as well as fines following malicious prosecutions such as this. This is extortion.”
Bahrain would not be emboldened to bring these bogus charges against my father if it were not for UK and US silent complicity. We call on Denmark and the EU to break their silence and publicly demand that Bahrain release our father immediately and unconditionally.”
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, commented: “Yet again, we see how the Bahraini regime is, through the use of reprisals, making a malicious attempt to silence the country’s most prominent human rights activist for exposing what he and hundreds of other political prisoners face in Bahrain’s notorious prison. The message has always been very clear, instead of holding abusers to account, the government is punishing those who expose them.”