Lawyers Quit in Protest at Bahrain Torture Trial

4950316409_263c8b6d25_bYou’re a minor, illness relatively unknown blogger from a minuscule, patient relatively unknown country being tried for treason in a tiny court whose proceedings are completely hidden from anyone in this minuscule, no rx relatively unknown country who might have the wherewithal to help you… Then your lawyer quits.

Things have been better for Bahrain’s 23 human rights activists, opposition activists, bloggers and dissident clerics on trial for (among many charges) “forming an authorized group which incites to overthrow the government.”

In today’s hearing, the fourth in a trial Change.org has covered from the beginning, the entire defense team representing the accused activists quit in protest over the proceedings.

Lawyers for the state called a series of security officers to testify against the 23 detainees. The defense team responded by calling the case and sham and called again for an investigation into allegations that the 23 detainees had been tortured by the security officers. It is not clear whether the security officers who testified are the same officers accused of torturing the detainees.

When the judge refused all of the defense requests, the entire team of defense lawyers withdrew from the case. The judge called for a recess and after half an hour returned to find the 23 detainees without any legal representation.

“We don’t have lawyers,” the defendants said when asked by the judge what had happened. “And we don’t want other lawyers.”

The judge had no choice but to suspend the hearing.

As with the previous hearings, Bahraini security forces prevented a number of human rights activists and family members of the 23 detainees from entering the court.

The trial is part of an ongoing government crackdown on three Bahraini opposition groups — the Bahrain Freedom Movement, the Haq Movement and the Al-Wafa Islamic Movement. The opposition groups, which are officially illegal in Bahrain, jointly called for a boycott of the country’s October elections, claiming “manipulation of election through votes cast by military service members and thousands of naturalized foreigners who live outside Bahrain” and “the absence of international and local monitoring.”

With all local media banned from reporting on the case, a Change.org petition campaign has garnered a lot of attention on local Bahraini blogs and forums and in the international press. A number of local activists have told Change.org that international pressure on Bahrain, a strategic American military partner and home to the US Fifth Fleet, is the best hope for the detainees, so please sign and share the petition.

The next hearing is December 23.

Winning this and similar campaigns depends on our ability to quickly call on thousands of supportive folks like you. After signing the petition below, please click here to help us win!

Photo credit: Alberto Alerigi