Last updated: 28 September, 2012

Next hearing in Bahrain activist trial set to October 16

A Bahraini appeals court on Thursday set October 16 as the date for the next hearing in the trial of Shiite rights activist Nabeel Rajab, a government statement said.

The court also merged Rajab’s three separate cases of “incitement and illegal assembly” into one single appeal, the statement added.

Rajab, 48, is serving a three-year sentence for participating in illegal demonstrations, and repeated requests by attorneys for him to be released on bail have been rejected.

Foreign human rights activists who were to be defence witnesses on Thursday were unable to attend due to visa entry requirements to Bahrain, Rajab’s lawyers said, but Rajab attended the two-hour hearing.

The activist’s arrest and sentencing drew wide criticism from rights groups and Western powers, who urged Bahrain to overturn the sentence and release him immediately.

Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, led anti-government protests following a crackdown on Shiite-led demonstrations against the regime in March 2011.

He had insisted on demonstrating inside Manama, unlike the main Shiite opposition which now stages protests in villages, after last year’s clampdown on protesters who occupied the capital’s Pearl Square for a month.

Bahrain, ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty has a majority Shiite population that for decades has complained of marginalisation.

In February 2011, thousands of protesters took to the streets demanding pro-democracy reforms in the kingdom, and were brutally crushed by government forces a month later.

Bahrain continues to witness sporadic Shiite-led protests that have often spiralled into clashes with police.

According to Amnesty International, since the protests first began in February 2011, at least 60 people have been killed.