Bahraini opposition leaders cleared of terrorist link
Manama, June 26, 2014
A Bahraini opposition leader has been cleared of having links to an outlawed terrorist group, potentially injecting new impetus to a dialogue process designed to end the country's political stalemate.
Khalil Al Marzooq, political assistant to Al Wefaq National Islamic Society secretary-general Shaikh Ali Salman, was found not guilty of inciting terrorist acts, having links with the Coalition of February 14 terrorist movement and abusing his position yesterday (June 25) by the High Criminal Court, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
Judges concluded Al Marzooq was "expressing his right of freedom of speech" and "political opinions" in videos submitted by prosecutors as evidence in his nine-month trial.
The landmark verdict was celebrated by lawyers representing the former MP and was delivered at a hearing attended by diplomats from the US, British, Italian and French embassies, representatives of local and foreign media and human rights activists.
It was also welcomed by opposition groups, which said they were eager to proceed with the National Dialogue in light of the decision.
"The defendant's speeches and interviews seen in the videos presented by prosecutors showed that he spoke about the importance of being peaceful, even when he was confronted with opposing ideas he stuck to being peaceful," stated the court verdict.
"The evidence provided by prosecutors lacked any real proof of the defendant inciting violence or terrorist acts, but only included his political opinions.
"The court also believes the video footage, which shows the defendant holding the Coalition of February 14 flag during a speech, proves he was concentrating on his speech and did not pay any attention to the flag that was handed to him by another man.
"He did not wave the flag, but held it still until another person took it from him.
"His speech was on September 6, 2013 even before a court ruled on September 20 that the Coalition of February 14 was a terrorist organisation.
"Any person who supported the group prior to the verdict is not considered a suspect in aiding the terrorist group.
"In addition, he (Al Marzooq) is not the head of the Al Wefaq National Islamic Society and his opinions are considered part of freedom of speech - which is protected by the constitution and international treaties."
Prosecutors said they would examine the verdict before deciding whether they would appeal against the acquittal.
Al Marzooq was released from custody on October 24 last year on guarantee of his place of residence pending the outcome of his trial, but was subject to a travel ban.
The ex-MP was arrested after he was caught on camera holding the flag of the Coalition of February 14 during a rally in Saar.
The group is credited with training teenagers in firearms and bomb-making, blowing up ATMs, orchestrating arson attacks on car showrooms, detonating a series of explosive devices in Manama that killed two Asians and other terrorist activities.
However, Al Marzooq claimed he did not know what the flag was when it was handed to him.
Following his arrest, Al Wefaq and four other opposition groups pulled out of the National Dialogue in protest.
The talks have since been revived, but there has been no word on progress since participants submitted their visions for the future to the Royal Court earlier this year.
However, the opposition National Democratic Action Society (Wa'ad) secretary-general Radhi Al Mousawi said Al Marzooq's acquittal was "encouraging".
"I think it is encouraging for us to think again and see how to ensure the dialogue can be helpful for Bahrain," he said.
"We are ready to take part in the talks and are eagerly waiting for the government to come out with an agenda to proceed."
Secretary-general of fellow opposition group Al Ekha National Society, Moosa Al Ansari, added instability elsewhere in the region meant it was important to push ahead with talks.
"The authorities should take steps to start the talks as we are ready and there is no need to waste more time," he said. - TradeArabia News Service