x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

14 Bahrainis jailed for life for murder of Pakistani man during protests

The group, all Shiites, will appeal against the verdicts and sentences, says their lawyer: 'It was a harsh ruling because it wasn't clear who dealt the fatal blow and everyone was given the same sentence without any clarity.'

MANAMA // Fourteen Bahrainis were sentenced to life in prison yesterday by a special military court after being found guilty of the murder of a Pakistani man during protests in March.

The military prosecutor, Yousef Flayfil, said the man, Abdul Malik Ghulam Rasool, died after he was assaulted outside his home in Manama and beaten with wooden planks and metal bars, the Bahraini state news agency, BNA, reported yesterday.

Mohsin Al Allawi, a defence lawyer for two of the accused, said the group, all Shiites, would appeal against the verdicts and sentences.

"It was a harsh ruling because it wasn't clear who dealt the fatal blow and everyone was given the same sentence without any clarity," he said. "The families were expecting something like this because the military courts are sentencing people to such sentences."

In a separate ruling yesterday, the military court also handed down 15-year jail terms to six University of Bahrain students for crimes including attempted murder. One student received an 18-year jail sentence.

A further 15 defendants were also sentenced to 15 years on separate charges, including attempted murder and inciting hatred against the Bahraini regime. They have the option of appealing their sentences to the country's highest civilian court.

Al Wefaq, the country's main opposition group, yesterday condemned the rulings, describing them as part of a pattern of "political persecution" against those involved in anti-government protests.

The special military court was set up during a period of military rule in place earlier this year, which was lifted in June following a crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations.

More than 30 people have been killed since protests broke out in the kingdom in February. Hundreds of people, mostly Shiites, have been arrested and many more dismissed from their jobs.

On Thursday, 20 medics were sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison. The doctors, nurses and paramedics were charged with crimes including incitement against the government and denying treatment to patients during clashes between the security forces and anti-government protesters.

The long prison terms have been criticised by human rights organisations, as well as the United Nations and the US government. Late last week, UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, issued a statement describing his "deep concern" over the sentences.

Deputy spokesman Mark Toner said last week that the US State Department was "deeply disturbed" by the rulings.

"We are also concerned about trials of civilians, including medical personnel, in military courts and the fairness of those proceedings," Mr Toner said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the appeal of a verdict against seven men, including two given the death penalty and others sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of two Bahraini policemen earlier this year, was adjourned yesterday until October 24.

zconstantine@thenational.ae

* with additional reportng from Associated Press