June 14, 2017 / 7:26 PM / in 5 months

Defence lawyers walk out of top Bahraini activist trial

DUBAI (Reuters) - Lawyers for a leading Bahraini human rights activist walked out of court after their demand to postpone the trial was rejected by the judge, a rights group reported on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab arrives for his appeal hearing at court in Manama, February 11, 2015. REUTERS/Hamad Mohammed/File Photo

The lawyers asked the court to postpone the trial until Nabeel Rajab, hospitalised since April, could attend and defend himself, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said.

Rajab’s health had deteriorated in solitary confinement, the institute said, and he has undergone surgery for bleeding ulcers.

“When Judge Al-Jazar refused the postponement request, the defence declared they were withdrawing from court until their client could attend in person and walked out of the court room,” BIRD said in a statement.

A leading figure in a 2011 pro-democracy uprising led by Bahrain’s Shi‘ite Muslim majority, Rajab has been repeatedly detained.

He faced two trials on Wednesday, one in the morning for tweeting, the other in the afternoon for spreading false news. He also faces another trial on charges of writing an editorial decrying prison conditions in the country.

BIRD’s statement said the trial for tweeting has been postponed until Aug. 7 and the trial for spreading false news has been delayed to July 2.

The government had no immediate comment on the report.

In a New York Times column published under his byline in September, Rajab addressed readers in the first person, saying he was writing from a “Bahraini jail cell where I have been detained, largely in isolation, since the beginning of summer”.

The United Nations Committee against Torture last month called on Bahrain to release Rajab from more than nine months of solitary confinement and investigate widespread allegations of ill-treatment and torture of detainees.

Bahrain denies any systematic abuse by police or in its prisons and says it is facing a violent uprising backed by its regional rival, Iran.

Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi, editing by Larry King

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