January 7, 2013
Washington, DC: Today, Bahrain’s highest court upheld convictions against 13 activists, including human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, for their roles in peaceful anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain. The Court of Cassation upheld Mr. al-Khawaja’s sentence of life imprisonment.
Freedom Now’s executive director Maran Turner stated: “We are extremely disappointed that the court failed to overturn Mr. al-Khawaja’s wrongful conviction and ignore the horrendous abuse that he has suffered as a result of his imprisonment. This decision is yet another indication that the Bahraini government is not committed to respecting the human rights of its critics.”
The Bahraini government arrested Mr. al-Khawaja on April 9, 2011 following his peaceful participation in anti-government demonstrations during which he criticized the regime’s use of violence against the protesters. Authorities charged Mr. al-Khawaja with financing and participating in terrorism to overthrow the government, as well as spying for a foreign country. On June 22, 201, a military tribunal found Mr. al-Khawaja guilty and sentenced him to life in prison. After intense international criticism, the Bahraini government ordered Mr. al-Khawaja’s retrial in civilian court; however, his conviction and sentencing were upheld on September 4, 2012.
Mr. al-Khawaja has been a prominent human rights defender for more than two decades. While in prison, Mr. al-Khawaja has been subjected to deplorable and inhumane treatment, including attempted sexual assault, severe beatings, and psychological torture. In February 2012, Mr. al-Khawaja began a 110-day hunger strike to protest his wrongful detention and ill-treatment in prison.
Freedom Now represents Mr. al-Khawaja as his pro bono international legal counsel.