Bahrain orders retrial for hunger striker, protest leaders
By Aamer Mohammed
MANAMA (Reuters) - A Bahraini court has ordered a retrial for jailed hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and 20 other men convicted of leading an uprising last year, but an opposition leader said the gesture was not enough to defuse resurgent unrest.
The turmoil threatens the stability of Bahrain, an ally of Saudi Arabia and the United States in their stand-off with Iran, and sparked Saudi calls for a union of oil-exporting Gulf Arab states to keep Tehran and regional protest movements at bay.
Following international calls for meaningful democratic reforms and a release of jailed dissidents in Bahrain, a Manama court ruled that 21 protest leaders convicted in a closed-door military court should be retried in a civilian chamber.
But the Cassation Court ruled that those now in prison - eight of whom, including Khawaja, were given life sentences for trying to overthrow the state -- must remain there pending a verdict in a new trial.
International rights groups and the families of the incarcerated opposition figures have said all of them should be freed without conditions.
"This ruling is just a step in the right direction, but the street will not calm down until all the prisoners are freed. This is just a part of it," said Sayed Hadi al-Mousawi, a senior official from leading opposition party Wefaq.
Khawaja has been refusing food for nearly three months and is at risk of dying, according to his family. But his wife, Khadija al-Mousawi, said on Monday his hunger strike would continue despite the decision to grant him a retrial.
"If they are serious they should set them free and then retry them," she said. "My husband is going through the whole thing again, remembering the horrible episode of torture, attempt to rape and sexual abuse." Continued...