Sentences unjust says rights group

A BAHRAINI rights group yesterday said it was still stunned by life sentences handed down to seven Molotov cocktail killers on Monday.

Three of their co-defendants, including one who is still on the run, were cleared by the High Criminal Court.

But the government-registered Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) claimed the verdict was political and questioned how all seven men could be equally responsible for the death of Shaikh Mohammed Riaz in March last year.

It also called for police restraint, claiming it witnessed heavy-handed tactics to control disturbances that followed Monday’s ruling.

The organisation made the comments after Mr Riaz’s relatives welcomed the verdict, but stated they would have preferred the death penalty for his killers.

“The society believes the verdict was political and not judicial, seeing as all seven men were treated as one defendant and were given the same life sentences,” society secretary-general Dr Abdulla Al Derazi said in a statement.

“The society also stresses its fundamentals of condemning violence from all parties.

“We call on all security forces to adopt self-restraint when dealing with suspects and their families and not to resort to using excessive force.”

He claimed the outcry by relatives of the seven men after the verdict was understandable, given the length of their sentences, and said police should have been more understanding.

“Riot police used excessive force against the relatives, who were protesting outside the Justice and Islamic Affairs Ministry complex,” read the statement.

“Police invaded the courtroom, where the convicts and their family members were assaulted.

“We believe that officers didn’t take into consideration the emotional distress the relatives felt at the time of being informed their sons were going to serve life sentences.

“And instead of dealing with them in a calm and modern way, they attacked them and used force.”

The seven men convicted of killing Mr Riaz will each serve 25 years behind bars, but a defence lawyer has already announced they will appeal.

Some of them reacted violently to the verdict and their relatives clashed with police inside the court, which was under lockdown ahead of the hearing.

The GDN reported yesterday that those clashes spilled onto the streets of the Diplomatic Area, where office workers had to take cover in shops and cafes.

All seven found guilty were convicted under anti-terrorism legislation, a fact criticised by their lawyer – who claimed they could have expected a maximum of 10 years in jail under non-terror laws.

However, prosecutors successfully argued the 58-year-old victim was killed in a Molotov cocktail attack in Ma’ameer designed to provoke terror.

Bahrain’s largest opposition group has condemned the sentences and demanded the men’s immediate release.

Al Wefaq National Islamic Society claimed the verdict was unjust and harked back to controversial security laws of the past.

It released an official statement after meeting defence lawyers to discus the appeal procedure.

“This is the first time a case which has political background is so harshly sentenced and prosecuted under the terrorism law,” said the statement, which also said claims the men had been coerced into confessing were ignored.

“The new (anti-terror) legislation has been condemned by local and international human rights watchdogs because it creates a U-turn to the repressive era of the law on state security.

“It also resuscitates the security mantra in dealing with such issues.”

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