Associated Press
Publication Date: 
Fri, 2011-01-28 05:00

The case is closely watched by rights groups and Western governments after sectarian clashes last year in the strategic Gulf kingdom, which hosts the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.
The highly sensitive trial had been stalled since early December when the entire defense team quit to protest alleged torture against their clients.
It resumed with court-appointed replacement attorneys even though they have been rejected by the defendants, who are accused of supporting “terrorist” cells seeking to undermine the ruling regime. Twenty-three suspects are in custody and two are being tried in absentia.
Judge Ibrahim Al-Zayed ordered the defendants removed from the court after they pressed their allegations of beatings in prison and other pressures to sign fraudulent confessions. They claimed their bodies still show signs of electric shocks, but the judge refused to order an examination.
The suspects then watched by closed-circuit monitor as security officials told the court about alleged plots against the ruling establishment. It was not clear whether defense lawyers can cross-examine the officials or present their cases when the trial resumes Feb. 10.
Bahraini leaders have previously denied any abuses of the detainees and point to the country’s parliamentary elections — a rarity in the tightly ruled Gulf — as evidence of openness and tolerance.

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