A special security court in Bahrain [JURIST news archive] heard the appeals of jailed anti-government protesters on Tuesday. According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights [official website], the National Safety Court of Appeal, a court composed of military prosecutors and civilian and military judges, heard the appeals of 21 activists [profiles, PDF] who were sentenced to prison after the Bahraini government imposed martial law [JURIST report] to crack down on protesters in the region. Eight of the protesters arrested and jailed received life sentences, including prominent Shiite leaders Hassan Mushaima and Abdul Jalil al-Singace. The protesters have been on a hunger strike [JURIST report] to show support for doctors jailed for treating those injured in during the demonstrations. A lawyer for one of the defendants said that court had been adjourned [BNA report] with the next appearance before the court scheduled for September 28.
These appeals come days after Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official profile] announced he would dismiss charges against some of the protesters [JURIST report] detained for their participation in pro-democracy demonstrations in the country. In June, the 21 activists were sentenced [JURIST report] after being charged [charges, PDF] with "plotting to topple the leadership of the Kingdom of Bahrain." Also in June, Khalifa announced that an independent commission will investigate human rights violations [JURIST report] related to the country's pro-democracy protests. Earlier that month, the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights announced that Bahrain agreed to permit a UN commission [JURIST report] to investigate human rights violations related to protests. The National Safety Courts were instituted in mid-March and have been internationally criticized, most recently [JURIST report] by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. The court also sentenced nine citizens [JURIST report] to 20 years in prison for kidnapping a police officer in May. In April, the court handed the death sentence to four protesters, a rarity in Bahrain, and upheld the sentences [JURIST reports] for two of the men, who were accused of murdering police officers.