You might have heard that there is a trial taking place in Bahrain in which 25 Bahrainis are accused of crimes against the state, everything from sedition through to terrorism and incitement against the regime, all of which carry rather heavy sentences.

You might have also heard that a gag order has been imposed on the media, guaranteeing the absence of transparency and making for the fertile grounds of continued suppositions and incorrect allegations by the public, who have a right to know the truth of what’s happening.

The gag order notwithstanding, the press continue to report around the case, detailing at least the happenings in court rather than expound on and investigate the substance of the accusations; thus, providing a glimpse of what’s happening in the court, a-la soap opera style.

But what has happened over the last few weeks transpired to be better than expected and excellent fodder for a soap opera! The original defence team resigned in toto citing their legitimate demands for investigations of allegations of torture against the detainees by police elements since apprehension and the screening of the defendants by independent medical personnel to determine such receipt of abuse were summarily rejected by the court. The resignation put the court in a quandary, as the Bahraini constitution specifically states that a defendant has a constitutional right to accept or refuse a court appointed lawyer to try his case, defendants rejected the court appointed lawyers; hence, the court-appointed lawyers withdrew from the case. The court saw the resignation as an act of contempt and referred them to the minister of justice requesting disciplinary action taken against them.

Onwards the court proceeded and now assigned a new batch of lawyers to the accused; however, this time, rather than assigning individual lawyers representing individual defendants, the ministry of justice stipulated that a batch of lawyers could and shall represent a batch of defendants in an individual or group manner; hence, should a defendant reject a lawyer, others in the group automatically shall take over representation.

But even then, the court’s trouble did not end. In yesterday’s proceedings, five lawyers withdrew from the case citing unconstitutionality of representing defendants who reject them; another five requested an immediate audience with the justice minister to tell him face-to-face why they cannot proceed with the trial as they have been rejected by their assigned clients and all lawyers demanding the rule of the Constitutional Court as to the applicability of lawyers being forced to represented clients, while only one – Awadh Fouda – interpreted the constitutional article inapplicable as “the constitutional right to consent to the lawyers is inapplicable as the defendants have abused that right” and thus opted to proceed with both the representation and the trial.

The defendants were again unanimous in their rejection of the third wave of legal representation when directly asked by the judge, demanding the restoration of the original defence team.

The five lawyers who withdrew from the case were referred to the disciplinary committee for contempt of court, the defendants were carted off to their prison cells and the trial was once again delayed for a week awaiting the assignment of even more lawyers to take the place of those who withdrew.

At this rate, I think the government should seriously consider the immediate importation of more lawyers from other sympathetic Arab countries, naturalise them and get them to stand in the carousel to fill in the void created by withdrawing lawyers.

I’m not a lawyer and never want to be one, but my simple intellect tells me that (a) this trial has all the hallmarks of being political, (b) the government has lost this one and (c) there is a serious series of flaws surrounding it and therefore should be immediately declared a mistrial and let the defendants go free.

Unless of course, the sham is required to continue for no good reason.

A terror trial against 25 men accused of plotting attacks against Bahrain was adjourned yesterday for another week after five members of the second defence team appointed recently withdrew from the case.

The lawyers stated that the suspects refused to be represented by them. “According to the Constitutional Law, an accused has the right to refuse or accept his lawyer and we have found out that our clients do not want us to defend them,” one of the lawyers stated.
The five lawyers are Ali Al Oraibi, Shahnaz Ali, Taymoor Karimi, Nabeela Al Majid and Loay Qarooni.

Justifying their decision, they said that they cannot go against the Constitutional Law as its articles take precedence over legal articles.

Daily Tribune · 14.1.11