(6) The Fourth Criminal Court: on the track of the National Security Tribunals
2014-07-14 - 9:10 م
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive):
"Bahrain does not suffer from a malfunctioning judiciary system, but from an injustice system that perfectly works", Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch for Middle East affairs.
In the previous part, we discussed how the fourth criminal court was established to serve the political decision resembled in "penalty harshening" and "rooting up" the protest movement. The court served the those decisions through making the largest number of activists and protestors to be tried under the terrorism act, issuing severe punishments against them, hastening the trials and issuing the verdicts in a record time.
We will present in this part another sample for a case which was the third one to be dealt with in the fourth criminal court. This case won't take so long to assure the role entrusted to this court due to the clear legal violations that rendered the sessions.
The third case is known as "14 February cell", which the authority claimed to have discovered on 12 June 2013. 50 Bahrainis were tried together on 11 July 2013 under this case; the tired people included a number of political activists and well-known human rights activists.
The public prosecution imposed a group of charges to the convicts. According to the intents, the charges were entitled under the terrorism act. The charges included establishing a group against the law with an (intent) to suspend the Constitution and laws, train and organize members to commit violence, make acts of vandalism, assault people and public properties and attack security men, in addition to collaborating with a foreign country. It is to mention that the suspects were also convicted with the use of terrorism to achieve their intent.
The court system seemed clear since its first hearing. The court, with Ali Al Dhahrani being the presiding judge, ignored listening to the beatings claims which the accused disclosed. Naji Fateel, the human rights activist, raised his shirt to show the marks of torture on his body, but the judge Ali Al Dhahrani soon moved the speaking opportunity to another detainee. Detainee Rihana Almousawi: spoke in court of how she was stripped of all her clothes during detention, as part of her torture. She was then reportedly threatened with rape and electric shocks by male officers. The judge only noted in the trial report that she received "improper moral treatment". Although the beatings of Hameed Abbas Al Safi, the detainee who got beat by batons on his body parts while being arrested were still visible on his arm and leg, the judge refused to note them down in the trial report. The detainee Mohammad Al Singace attended the hearing with his hand looking abnormal, in addition to a wound on his head, and neck pain which he still suffered from. In regards to detainee Essa Alghais, he asked his lawyer not to file a complaint about torture in fear of being subjected to torture again. However, Alghais decided to mention during the trial a few details of the torture he suffered, but was interrupted by the judge who did not want him to speak.
The defense team held a press conference after the hearing and presented many legal violations that rendered the trial:
|Number||The Legal Violation|
|1||The case of the 14th February youth coalition cell is the first case to be referred to the Court immediately after 60 days of arrest.|
|2||The defendants in the case are 50, 9 attended the court, 12 are outside Bahrain, and others are in the Jaw Central Prison.|
|3||Families of the detainees, observers and human rights defenders were expelled from the court treating it as a secret trial in an act similar to what took place at the National Security Tribunals.|
|4||Among the charges against the defendants is disabling the provisions of the constitution and dissolving the parliament - which is headed by the judge's father Ali Al Dhahrani - which can be considered as a conflict of interest.|
|5||Among the charges against the defendants is seeking to overthrow the regime which is represented by the ruling Al Khalifa family–which is the family Judge Hamad Al Khalifa belongs to- which can be also be identified as a conflict of interest.|
|6||The judge refused to allow time to listen to the many allegations of torture made by the detainees.|
|7||The judge refused to listen to the statements of the lawyers and their comments on the detainees' testimonies; the lawyers were not allowed to speak.|
|8||The judge did not note down the requests as stated by the lawyers.|
|9||When talking about torture the judge gave the detainees only a minute or two to talk about their allegations of torture; in addition to refusing to write the details of their torture testimonies in the trial record.|
|10||The Judge refused to direct the charges to the defendants directly; instead, he assigned them with numbers and stated the charges to each number.|
|11||The court, headed by Judge Al Dhahrani rejected all complaints made by the detainees about the Public Prosecution, he refused to make note of them in the trial record.|
|12||The nine detainees who appeared before the court were not informed by the prosecutors or during interrogations about their charges, which is belonging to the 14 February youth coalition cell. They were surprised to hear their charges for the first time in the courtroom, and to discover their pictures had been broadcasted on state television naming them as members of the February 14 youth coalition.|
|13||The case is not presented in the proper format, and the lawyers worry that they are being used as a means by the authorities in stating that defendants were assigned lawyers as per the law.|
|14||Investigations were not conducted in regards to the complaints of torture made by most of the detainees in the case of February 14 Youth Coalition cell.|
|15||The judge did not ask the detainees about not having assigned lawyers, nor about assigning lawyers for the upcoming sessions, as what happened with Rihanna who was not allowed to appoint a lawyer since her arrest.|
The next hearing was set to 25 July 2013 without approving the request of the lawyers to have access to the case documents.
During the next hearing, the accused shouted in the courtroom because the judge refused to listen to them. Lawyer Manar Maki tweeted that "the judge did not give the accused the right to make any defense; this is considered violation to the code of the criminal procedure that stipulates that the accused is the last to speak".
Following, the defense team proposed an explanatory note for the court judges asking them for a reply. The team, moreover, handed the supreme judicial court a copy of the reply request given to the court judges. However, the court ignored the demand and adjourned the hearing and set the case to 5 September to listen to the witnesses.
The defense team mentioned ignoring their request in a speech delivered to the supreme judicial council and shed light on the incapacities of the judges (Ali Al Dhahrani and Hamad Al Khalifa) to consider the case for the conflict in the interests pursuant to article (211) of the code of criminal procedure. The team also demanded to "refer the case file to another independent court".
On 3 September, the convicts issued a statement declaring their boycott to attend the court hearings. They also showed that their decision was based on the illegal arrest conditions, transgress of the investigators and falsifying charges against the accused during the investigations. In addition, the accused affirmed in their statement that "the public prosecution is not dependent; we were sure about this issue when were obliged to admit the charges falsified against us during the investigations conducted by the head of the public prosecution "Ahmed Bucheery" stressing that "the trial's conditions assured the lack of judicial independence"".
The detainees said that "the verdicts were previously agreed upon and the trial is but a legal cover for these verdicts". They, nonetheless, refused to be "a part of a play aiming at deceiving the public of the independency of the judicial system". The detainees called the defense team not to "take any measures beyond our wills".
The defense team's demand was met with no response from any party and the accused decision of boycotting the hearings had no impact. The court, with Judge Ali Al Dhahrani on top, continued to be held. On 5 September, none of the accused, lawyers and witnesses attended the court, however, four of the lawyers appeared before the start of the hearing and announced that their clients did not want to stand before the court, especially that the defense team delivered a speech to the supreme judicial council calling to change the jurists who are considering the case.
This did not influence the court in any way; the court's mission is so obvious. It is working on its mission with effort and as fast as possible and the hearings were held according to sequence imposed on them: imposing charges session, the affirming witnesses' session, the negating witnesses' session, then the defense session and finally verdict issuing.
The court conducted its sessions without the convicts being present. Two months were enough to achieve its mission in issuing the sentence, thus, on 29 September, the court convicted all the 50 suspects; 16 of them were sentenced to 4, 10 and 15 years of imprisonment. It also sentenced 30 Bahrainis with one Bahraini lady among them in the cell to 5 years of prison. The court declared that it punished the convicts pursuant to "protecting the society from terrorist acts and the decree of law 14 of 2011 regarding prohibiting and combatting money laundering and terrorism financing"
The evidence the public prosecution relied on and the court issued verdicts upon were specified by the public prosecution attorney, Ahmad Al Dosari, as "the anecdotal evidence represented in the witnesses testimonies and the accused statement, in addition to the physical evidence the prosecution have to support these charges and affirm the charges imposed against the accused".
"The foreign country collaborating with the accused was proven; the foreign country was the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was also proven that the accused communicated with high level officials and members of the Iranian revolutionary guard corps and agreed to supply them with information about the internal affairs of Bahrain. The accused were said to have been received directions to train and organize to commit acts of vandalism and riots in the country with the intent to make disturbance and spread chaos", added Al Dosari.
Therefore, the verdict was issued against the convicts in a dangerous case based on the charges during not more than 2 and half months. The defense team considered this matter "militarized more than the military tribunals".
The defense team held a press conference on the following day; here is a summary of its most important point:
1. Ali Al Dhahrani, the judge, insulted the accused during the trial; this is contradictory to the judge's roles.
2. Ali Al Dhahrani, the judge, breached the court's justice through preventing the accused of speaking, in addition to insulting one of them.
3. The lawyers were surprised of sentencing all the 50 detainees of the 14th of February youth coalition cell although most of them do not know each other.
4. The lawyers were surprised of issuing a sentence against the accused within 3 sessions only; noting that 2 of the 3 sessions were held with neither lawyers not the accused.
5. Arresting 97% of the accused in the last period without a judicial authorization or arrest warrant.
6. More than 90% of the issued verdicts were convictions, whereas the innocence cases were rare; which proves the imbalance of the jurisdiction.
7. Preventing the lawyers of attending the investigation sessions or enter the detention centers using diversionary tactics and telling the detainee that his lawyer did not show, in order to make the lawyers look as liars before their clients.
8. The continuous use of violence, torture and extracting testimonies under pressure and duress as evidence against the detainees.
The most important violation mentioned by the lawyers was that "the investigating officer is the one to decide whether the case was under the terrorism act or not and not the public prosecution or the judiciary". Thus, the court specifies its grounds of judgments according to the decision of the investigating officer!
Furthermore, the lawyers stated that, "the public prosecution always has confidence in the national security investigations and the criminal investigations before meeting the accused; this proves that questioning the accused in only a formality".
The lawyers wondered, "How can the judiciary feel confident of the investigations of an officer who is charged of torturing?! And how can the judge call for investigating claims which were extracted under duress while continuing the lawsuit procedures against the accused who were subjected to the severest forms of torture?!"
Through this sample we notice how the court works in achieving its imposed task properly and how, Joe Stork says, "Bahrain does not suffer from a malfunctioning judiciary system, but from an injustice system that perfectly works".
In the next part, who is the judge, Ali Al Dhahrani? How does he manage his trials?
- 2014-09-11(9) The Judge Ebrahim Al Zayed: the most merciless...the most lenient
- 2014-09-09 (8) A justice system that masters insulting lawyers
- 2014-07-21(7) Judge Ali Bin Khalifa Al Dhahrani: The Angry Blockhead
- 2014-07-10(5) The Fourth Criminal Court: The Legislator
- 2014-07-06The Bahraini Terrorism Act and Loose Laws (4)
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