Bahrain: Bahraini court overturns decision to strip 92 nationals of citizenship

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On 30 June 2019, Bahrain’s top court of appeals has overturned the decision to revoke the citizenship of 92 defendants in the case known as the Bahraini Hezbollah trial.

In September last year, the Public Prosecutor’s office said it had received a report from the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) concerning the formation of a terrorist cell inside Bahrain at the behest of Iranian regime leaders who issued their orders to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to unify the elements of various terrorist factions that carry out terror attacks in Bahrain.

They were among 138 individuals sentenced to prison terms and the revocation of their citizenship after being convicted of trying to establish a Bahraini version of the Hezbollah party. Their prison terms were upheld. In April’s original court ruling, the first instance court sentenced 69 defendants to life imprisonment, 39 to ten years’ imprisonment, seven years to 23 other defendants, five years imprisonment for one of the accused, 3 years imprisonment for six of the accused. Thirty people were acquitted of charges against them. In total, the court convicted 139 people of terrorism offences during a mass trial, revoking the citizenship of all but one. 

According to rights groups, Bahrain is increasingly using terrorism-related charges and the removal of citizenship to crack down on peaceful political activists. Opposition members and rights activists have been jailed or fled, and authorities have denied multiple accusations of torture. Amnesty International decried a “mockery of justice” and “mass arbitrary denaturalisation”. Amnesty described the sentences as “outrageous” and a sign of Bahrain’s authorities’ disregard for international judicial standards. On 7 May, 92 defendants filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Appeal to review their verdict. The first session of the appeal was held on 12 May with a decision being issued Sunday.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes the court decision to reinstate citizenship of 92 convicts but remains highly concerned about the citizenship deprivation practice in the country. ECDHR calls on Bahrain to stop using this practice as a reprisal of human rights activities and to reinstate all the remaining individuals who were denaturalised unfairly.