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Bahrain stages trials of opponents, despite new US criticism

Five of the six trials were held before a military tribunal. The US last week added Bahrain to its list of human rights abusers, which the kingdom called a regrettable 'rush to judgment.'

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In Geneva on June 15, the US added Bahrain to its list of human rights abusers that the United Nations Human Rights Council should closely examine. Unlike most of the other countries on the US list – they include China, Cuba, Iran, Libya, Myanmar, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen – Bahrain is a formal ally of the US and home port for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

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Bahrain responded to the designation by regretting the US "rush to judgment."

Details from the trials

The most political of Sunday's proceedings appeared to be the trial of Jawad Fairooz, an elected member of parliament who quit in February to protest the severity of the crackdown. He's been charged with inciting hatred for the current regime, spreading lies and malicious rumors, and organizing demonstrations. His lawyer wasn't permitted to deliver a full defense but was told to return on July 5, when he could make a final pleading and then hear the verdict.

Meanwhile, security authorities called in the wife of Mattar Ebrahim Mattar, the other jailed ex-lawmaker, for questioning. A doctor who was working in the main hospital where injured anti-government demonstrators were taken, his wife, Amal, was held for more than six hours, family members said.

The trial of the newspaper editors proceeded outwardly like a normal court case Sunday. During a hearing that lasted 30 minutes, Mansoor al Jamri, the former editor-in-chief of Al Wasat, told the court that he and three other editors had been tricked into publishing a series of fabricated articles after the paper came under attack and its staff had to disperse to their homes to publish print and electronic editions.

A set of dispatches arrived by email, describing a crackdown on protesters that had never occurred, and the newspaper published the false information unknowingly, he said. Jamri told the court that all the phony articles had been sent from a single server in Saudi Arabia, suggesting that the newspaper editors had been the victims of a deliberate set-up.

"We presented our case showing the nature and reality of our work and we were a force for moderation and reforms," Jamri later told McClatchy. "We could never be involved in anything unethical. Our mission was evident to all observers in that we advocated reforms, dialogue, and human rights."

(A McClatchy special correspondent in Bahrain contributed but cannot be named, due to fear of reprisal.)

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