Britain’s Foreign Office decried the outcome.
“It is deeply worrying that civilians are being tried before tribunals chaired by a military judge, with reports of abuse in detention, lack of access to legal counsel and coerced confessions,” Minister Alistair Burt said.
The U.S. State Department was more cautious, saying it was “concerned about the severity of the sentences handed down” and about the use of military courts to try civilians.
Nabeel Rajab, Bahrain’s most outspoken human rights advocate, told McClatchy that all 21 people “were targeted for their opinions and their political views, for opposing government policy.” He said all “were tortured, many subject to electric shock, many sexually harassed and all were deprived of the normal access to lawyers and families.”
At least 31 people were killed in the violence on the island, and more confrontations seem likely after the sentencing, putting an enormous question mark over a national dialogue between government and opposition that's due to begin July 1.
“These sentences today are another indication that the ruling family of Bahrain are completely non-serious about this dialogue,” said Joe Stork, who follows Bahrain closely for Human Rights Watch, the independent U.S. human rights watchdog group. “There are people (in this group) who represent a portion of the political spectrum. Their views should be represented.”
Rajab, a one-man human rights watchdog in Bahrain, concurred.
“A big part of the people who should be at the table have been sentenced to many years,” he said. “With whom will you have a dialogue?”
shared by Ed Webb on 23 Jun 11 - No Cached
1 - 1 of 1
Showing 20▼ items per page