September 6, 2014 / 1:02 PM / 3 years ago

Bahrain postpones trial of prominent human rights activist

MANAMA (Reuters) - A Bahraini judge on Saturday postponed the start of the trial of human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja by 10 days and ordered that she remain in custody, her lawyer said.

Khawaja, who has joint Bahraini-Danish citizenship, has been charged with entering the country illegally, assaulting a policewoman at the airport and insulting King Hamad.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement on Friday that Khawaja’s detention, and that of other political detainees, was arbitrary and expressed concern that her arrest was linked to her work promoting human rights.

State news agency BNA last week quoted an official as saying the public prosecution was investigating a complaint by airport police that a woman had assaulted a lieutenant and a policewoman after she refused to hand over her phone during a search.

Khawaja appeared in court wearing a plastercast on her wrist and her lawyer, Mohammed al-Jishi, told Reuters that she had been injured during her arrest and denied that she had assaulted a police officer. Officials were not immediately available for comment on her account of the injury.

Khawaja’s father, Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, is also a prominent Shi‘ite rights activist. He has been detained in the Sunni-ruled kingdom since 2011 and is on hunger strike.

Bahrain, a base for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been in turmoil since the 2011 Arab uprisings, when mass protests erupted in Manama led by members of the Shi‘ite Muslim majority.

Shi‘ites complain of political and economic marginalization, an accusation the government denies. Talks between the government and opposition have failed to defuse tensions.

Reporting By Farishta Saeed; Writing by Angus McDowall in Riyadh; Editing by Rosalind Russell

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