Friday, April 10, 2009

Reuter on Bahrain press conference

Bahrain opposition wants EU, UN monitors at "show trial"

Wed Apr 8, 2009 2:03pm EDT

* EU, U.N. asked to attend trial of government opponents

* British lawmaker: protesters face "merciless onslaught"

* Bahrain minister says trial is not politically motivated

By Peter Griffiths

LONDON, April 8 (Reuters) - International monitors should attend the trial in Bahrain of opposition figures accused of plotting to overthrow the Gulf state's government to ensure they receive a fair hearing, their supporters said on Wednesday.

British lawmaker Eric Lubbock, vice chairman of the human rights group in the upper house of parliament, called the trial "an iniquitous act of persecution against those who stand up for human rights".

After weeks of violent anti-government protests, he said, Bahrain's Sunni Arab leaders had grown "increasingly ruthless" and observers from the European Union and United Nations were needed at the trial in the island kingdom.

He told a London news conference he feared the fate of Hassan Mushaima, leader of the Shi'ite opposition group Haq, would be sealed in a political "show trial" manipulated by the ruling family in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet.

Bahrain strongly denies those claims. It says Mushaima and others will receive a fair trial and rejects claims the hearings are politically motivated.

"Potentially very serious terrorist attacks were uncovered and prevented in December, and the government has a duty to investigate and prosecute individuals against whom there is evidence," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement to Reuters.

Saeed Shehabi, of the Bahrain Freedom Movement, an opposition group, told the news conference: "The presence of EU observers in the forthcoming trials will be crucial."

Lubbock said some anti-government protesters had been injured by police and some of those arrested were tortured.

EU representatives attended the last hearing and should attend the next court date on April 28, and the U.N. torture envoy should also try to go, Lubbock said. (Additional reporting by Frederik Richter in Manama)

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