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Panel summoned in unrest appeal.

A MEDICAL panel will be summoned in an appeal by 14 Bahrainis convicted of charges connected to last year's unrest, including encouraging protesters to wield swords during anti-government demonstrations.

They filed an appeal at the Supreme Criminal Court last month.

Judges at the Supreme Criminal Court yesterday accepted a defence request to summon a panel consisting of medical examiners from the Health Ministry, Gulf University and the Public Prosecution for the next hearing.

Six men were jailed for 10 years each, while eight were given five-year sentences by the National Safety Court.

Other charges included inciting hatred to overthrow the regime and change the political system, spreading lies and rumours, publishing photographs seeking to ruin Bahrain's image as well as illegal gatherings and possession of swords during last year's unrest. However, only 10 defendants appeared in the Supreme Criminal Appeals Court yesterday. It is understood the others are still at large, but the defence team appealed on their behalf.

Defence lawyers also had their request to include the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report as evidence accepted, since it documents abuse of inmates in custody.

Lawyers Abdulla Al Shamlawi and Reem Khalaf asked the court to release their clients and drop their confessions, arguing they were made under duress.

One of Mr Al Shamlawi's clients, an author, said he wrote more than 85 books and was honoured for one encouraging peace between religions. "I met the King and was awarded for a book I wrote that condemns sectarianism and encourages peace among religions" he told judges.

Another defendant claimed he was mistreated in an underground prison. One said a police officer tormented him with a snake and draped it around his neck.

"He brought a snake and started to measure my neck, wrist and other parts of my body," he said in court. Two claimed they were forced to strip naked and were sexually harassed. Another claimed he was forced to hand himself over to authorities after his wife was arrested and his aunt was harassed by police officers.

Ms Khalaf claimed she saw one of her clients, who is also her neighbour, being arrested at his home. "I saw my client being kicked and pulled on the ground by masked police officers, then put in a patrol jeep after they stormed his house."

All defendants claimed they did not know what they were signing when they put their signatures on confession documents, claiming they were blindfolded.

Nine other suspects were earlier cleared of the same charges. Among the men convicted was Iraqi clergyman Sayed Hadi Ahmed Al Madrasi, currently believed to be in Iran, who reportedly called for Bahrainis to take up arms against the government. The appeal was adjourned until April 8.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Feb 21, 2012
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