DUBAI: Jailed Bahraini activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, on hunger strike for more than three months, was brought to court in a wheelchair on Tuesday when the retrial resumed of 13 men imprisoned over protests that rocked the island last year, activists said.
A military court convicted the men last year of using violence in protests led by majority Shi'ite Muslims in an effort to topple the Sunni monarchy.
Bahrain's highest appeals court ordered a retrial last month for 21 protest leaders, ruling that they should be retried in a civilian court. Seven of them were convicted in absentia and are
abroad or in hiding, and one, Horr al-Sumaikh, was released by the appeals court.
The court did not order the release of the remaining 13 or cancel their convictions, despite calls by international rights groups for their unconditional release. Eight of them are serving life sentences.
"He (Khawaja) showed up in court in a wheelchair today," Mohammed al-Maskati of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights told Reuters by phone from Manama.
Activists said the case was adjourned to May 29 and two men, including Khawaja, talked about their treatment in detention during the session on Tuesday.
"Khawaja's hearing was adjourned ... so the rest of the prisoners can speak (give testimony) about torture," said Sayed Yousfi Almuhafda, a member of the Bahrain Centre for Human
The 13 are believed to be among hundreds cited in a November report prepared by international investigators as having suffered torture in detention, often to extract confessions.
The trial began on May 8 but was adjourned once before because Khawaja, who had been on hunger strike since Feb. 9 demanding to be released, and another defendant were too ill to
The family of Khawaja, who has been drinking fluids, has been worried about his health. Western governments and the United Nations secretary-general have also called for a quick
resolution of his case. He has dual Bahrain and Danish nationality.
A separate court adjourned a hearing in the case of Khawaja's daughter Zanzibar to May 27, Almuhafda said. She was arrested a month ago for trying to stage a protest during the
Formula One Grand Prix race in Bahrain.
A third hearing for Nabeel Rajab, a prominent opposition activist and founder of the BCHR, on charges of organising illegal protests, was also adjourned to May 28, Almuhafda said.
Bahrain has been in turmoil since mainly Shi'ite pro-democracy protests erupted last year. The protests were crushed in March 2011 with help from Sunni-led Gulf states.
Violence in Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has intensified in recent months, and protesters clash almost daily with riot police. AGENCIES