Fake charges dropped, now time for serious action

The Bahrain Justice and Development Movement welcomes the decision by the Bahrain judiciary to find Khalil Almarzooq not guilty of inciting terrorism. From the outset the charges have been completely without merit, as clear by the lack of evidence throughout the trial, and politically motivated. However, this decision must not be a one-off gesture and instead needs to mark the beginning of serious political negotiations.

The arrest of Almarzooq in September, a leading figure in Al Wefaq, was a serious attempt to de-rail any hope of fruitful talks to move Bahrain out of its crisis. Furthermore the pursuit of a 9-month trial, during which time Almarzooq was prevented from traveling, was a major strain on prospects of a dialogue. Targeting the key individuals who need to be involved in such negotiations is a clear sign of an unwillingness to cooperate with the opposition.

His acquittal must be the starting point of a renewed political process, that engages with the opposition on a serious basis and leads to genuine democratic reform that meets the aspirations of the Bahraini people. The serving of justice should not be viewed as a concession by the authorities but rather must become the norm for Bahrain’s flawed judiciary.

Thousands of other political prisoners still languish in Bahraini jails and new trials with lengthy sentences continue to be handed out to opposition activists. The trial of Khalil Almarzooq serves as an example of the politically biased and chaotic Bahraini judiciary, with 8 sessions that failed to produce one single piece of evidence for the prosecution. Accusing an individual of inciting terrorism, based on a speech in which he unquestionably spoke against any form of violence, should never have taken this long to reach a conclusion, nor should Almarzooq have been held in detention for 38 days.

Whilst the Bahraini judiciary has reached the correct decision on this occasion, major reform is needed in order to build confidence amongst the people of Bahrain that the system serves to protect rather than repress. The release of all political prisoners, as called on in the BICI and the statement 2 weeks ago by 47 member states at the UN Human Rights Council, would be the start of this process.

We call on the authorities in Bahrain to pursue further confidence building measures and to immediately start the a new and inclusive political dialogue that takes the form of a serious negotiation towards democratic transition.

BJDM also notes our deep appreciation for all of those NGO’s, Governments, Parliamentarians and individuals who campaigned on behalf of Almarzooq and contributed to the correct decision finally being made.

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