Sandeep Singh Grewal Staff Reporter

Fifty- five local and International non-governmental organisations (NGOs) dealing with human rights have joined hands in demand for the release of 15 Bahraini detainees arrested during the disturbances in December last year. Six groups from Bahrain have sent an urgent appeal to His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa yesterday. These are- Bahrain Human Rights Society, now defunct Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), the Haq Movement of Liberties and Democracy, Society of Supporting Freedom and Democracy and the Women’s Petition Committee. “ We were planning to have at least hundred International organisations to be signatories for this campaign, but we had to launch it immediately,” said activist Nabeel Rajab. Rajab claimed that he was not allowed to enter the court hearing held on Sunday. “ The officers told me there was a special order issued by the authorities banning me from attending the proceedings,” he said. The Higher Court on Sunday adjourned the case to March. The deatinees are charged with torching a police jeep and stealing weapons. The authorities had arrested the men following the riots in December last year after Jassim Al Makki from Jidhaf allegedly died of tear gas inhalation. Rajab said they would continue with their campaign and raise the issue of the 15 detainees at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on April. “ The detainee issue would be on top of our agenda when Bahrain human rights record would be reviewed in the Council. We would also speak about the issue during our campaigning in Europe,” the activist said. Meanwhile, Bahraini observers assigned by International organisations to monitor the court trials sent a detailed report yesterday on the court proceedings. “We have mentioned that authorities allowed us about fifteen minutes after the hearing started. This was despite an approval by the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs and the Interior ministry,” claimed Mohammed Al Maskati from BYSHR. He claimed that during the court hearing, the detainees denied all the charges framed against them and told the presiding judge that they were being tortured by the officers. The Assistant Undersecretary for Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Interior, Brigadier Mohammad Rashid Buhamood had refuted torture allegations and claimed that a forensic expert from the Public Prosecution examined the men and found no signs of torture. There have been several protests by activists and family members outside the Public Prosecution building and other areas ever since the arrest of the men. An International human rights group, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders( OMCT) had also sent an open letter to US President Bush during his visit in Bahrain to urge the government to release all those detained during the unrest in December last year. “We want the Bahrain authorities to unconditionally release the detainees,” Rajab said.