Cautious praise for Bahraini reforms

April 30, 2012 at 1:17 PM
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LONDON, April 30 (UPI) -- London said it welcomes a decision by a court in Bahrain to retry 21 activists in a civilian court but expressed concern about a detainee on a hunger strike.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office welcomed a decision to try some activists before a civilian court in Bahrain. Manama has been the target of international criticism for its response to unrest lead mostly by Shiite minorities frustrated with the Sunni-led monarchy.

"We now urge the courts to move this forward urgently, with due process and transparency," the British statement read. "We call for all other upheld convictions by the military courts to be reviewed without further delay."

Demonstrations rekindled after Manama sentenced human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja to life in prison for allegedly plotting against the government. He's been on a hunger strike for about three months and remains in custody despite the court's decision to move his trial to a civilian court.

Khadija al-Moussawi, the activists' wife, told the BBC, the decision was a ruse. The judges for the civilian courts, she said, are the same as those in the military courts "but with different clothes."

Manama last year said it was investigating a series of reforms recommended by an independent human rights panel. The government, however, is accused of falling short of international expectations.

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