Bahrain Court Upholds Reprisal Charges against Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja

On 28 November 2022, the Second Lower Criminal Court in Bahrain upheld two separate criminal charges levelled against Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja, his family stated. In the first case, Mr Al-Khawaja was convicted of insulting a public servant, in reference to a police officer at Jau Prison, where the sentence upheld against him is to pay a fine of 100 Bahraini Dinar (BHD), equivalent to £220 UK pounds or $266 US dollars. Initially, according to an official court document issued by the Ministry of Interior, this case included a charge of “insulting a foreign state” – namely Israel. If brought forward, this could lead to up to two years imprisonment and fine. Given lack of access to the cases, lawyers have not been able to determine if the charge has been dropped or is still pending.

In the second case, heard by the same court, Mr. Al-Khawaja was convicted and fined 60 Bahraini Dinar (BHD) on the charge of breaking a plastic chair (10 BHD of which was the determined value of the chair), equivalent to £133 UK Pounds or $160 US dollars. This had occurred when Al-Khawaja was again denied his right to call his daughters in exile where he broke a plastic chair in protest, injuring his own hand.

Al-Khawaja was not present in his trials in person and was not able to grant power of attorney to his lawyer who he had instructed to represent him, despite a court order made last week to the Ministry of Interior to follow the procedure of granting his lawyer with power of attorney. This meant that Al-Khawaja had no recent legal representation at either trial in a flagrant violation of his rights. The lawyers Al-Khawaja had instructed to represent him were present  at court but had no access to his legal dossier and, without power of attorney, were unable to represent their client. In a blatant breach to his right to a fair trial, and in what was a clear due process violation, the judge proceeded with convicting Al-Khawaja on both charges. It is important to note that the judge did not wait for the power of attorney issue to be resolved before issuing these convictions against Al-Khawaja.

“The court has broken its own order, made just a week ago that was not fulfilled by the Ministry of Interior. Despite this blatant breach by the Ministry of Interior in not granting our father access to a power of attorney, the judge proceeded with upholding his conviction. This is a clear example of how the judicial system in Bahrain is not a dysfunctional system of justice but a highly functioning system of injustice. Through charges like this, the Bahraini regime is now actively profiteering from political prisoners who are made to work for free through the alternative sentencing law, to pay inflated phone charges within the prison as well as fines following malicious prosecutions such as this. This is extortion,”- his daughter, Maryam Alkhawaja commented.

Source: Free AlKhawaja website