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Bahrain court sets date for verdict on Shiite protesters

Bahrain's Court of Cassation has announced it will deliver its verdict on January 7 in the trial of 13 Shiite opposition leaders jailed for their roles in last year's unrest.

Bahrain's Court of Cassation has announced it will deliver its verdict on January 7 in the trial of 13 Shiite opposition leaders jailed for their roles in last year's unrest.

At a hearing attended by foreign diplomats and a UN human-rights representative yesterday, the court also rejected a request by the men to be released on bail pending the verdict, defence lawyers said.

On Friday, Amnesty International had urged the authorities in Bahrain to release the activists.

Doing so, the group said, would prove the monarchy was "genuinely committed" to reform and respect for human rights.

The activists, including the prominent opposition figure, Abdelhadi Al Khawaja, took part in anti- government protests last year and were convicted by a military tribunal on charges that included "setting up terror groups to topple the regime".

In September, an appeals court upheld life sentences for seven of the activists, all Shiites, including Al Khawaja, and jail terms ranging from five to 15 years for the others.

The defendants, who played leading roles in the month-long Shiite-led protests last year, were retried in civil court after they were convicted by a special semi-military court of plotting to topple the Sunni ruling family.

Bahrain came under criticism from international human rights organisations over last year's deadly crackdown on the protests.

An international panel commissioned by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to investigate the government's clampdown found that excessive force and torture was used against protesters and detainees.

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