Security alert in courts for riots trial By MOHAMMED ASLAM Published: 25th February 2008

BAHRAIN's courts were under lockdown for the second time in three weeks yesterday as security was beefed up for the trial of 15 men accused of rioting, setting fire to a police car and stealing police weapons during violent protests over the Eid and National Day holidays last December.

Police barricades were set up around the Justice Ministry, in the Diplomatic Area, and riot police were stationed at all entrances to prevent the men's supporters and relatives entering the complex.

Gates to the ministry were locked from early morning as a crowd gathered outside the courts chanting slogans and carrying pictures of the men.

Only people who could show they had a reason to be inside the court complex were allowed to enter throughout the day.

However, their hearing did not take place until 2pm - just 15 minutes before it normally closes.

The GDN reported similar scenes on February 2 when the men last appeared in court.

Their female relatives were yesterday allowed to enter the High Criminal Court for the resumption of their trial.

Their lawyers were also given more than 15 minutes to speak to the men before proceedings got underway.

Two of the men are accused of stealing and possessing police weapons, but they pleaded not guilty yesterday.

Two more accused of stealing two ammunition magazines also entered not guilty pleas yesterday.

One also denied obtaining and possessing a weapon, while 14 of them pleaded not guilty to taking part in an illegal gathering on December 20, using force against riot police and torching a police vehicle with a Molotov cocktail.

During the hearing the men complained about the treatment they have received in police custody and claimed that they had been abused.

This included allegations of being stripped naked, prevented from sleeping, tied up for long periods and made to stand for long periods.

Some also made allegations of sexual abuse, while others said they were sick and in need of medical attention.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the men urged the court to grant them access to a doctor and medical check-up, but Judge Shaikh Mohammed bin Ali Al Khalifa denied the request.

He also denied a request to grant the men bail.

The case was later adjourned until March 17 to allow defence lawyers time to prepare and the defendants were allowed to meet their relatives briefly. They have now been transferred from cells at the Criminal Investigation Directorate, in Adliya, to Dry Dock Prison, in Muharraq.

aslam@gdn.com.bh

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

© Gulf Daily News

http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/Story.asp?Article=209736&Sn=BNEW&IssueID=30342