U.N. watchdog seeks release of two Bahrainis from death row

DUBAI (Reuters) - A United Nations human rights watchdog has called on Western-allied Bahrain to release and compensate two activists facing death sentences, saying they are being arbitrarily detained.

In July 2020 Bahrain's highest court upheld death sentences against Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa for bombing a convoy and killing a police officer, after convictions in December 2014 that rights groups say were based on confessions extracted through torture.

"Taking into account all the circumstances of the case, particularly the risk of harm to the physical and psychological well-being of Mr. Ramadhan and Mr. Moosa, the appropriate remedy would be to release both men immediately and accord them an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations," the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said in a report published Thursday and dated May 31.

A Bahrain government spokesperson criticised the report as "one sided and misinformed" and said in a statement to Reuters on Saturday that the trials and appeals had fulfilled all requirements of a fair trial.

The official said the two men were convicted of serious criminal offences and that 15 judges in several courts had over six years examined evidence against them.

Security forces arrested Moosa, a hotel employee, and Ramadhan, a security guard in Bahrain's international airport, in early 2014 after a policeman was killed in a bombing in al-Deir, a village northeast of Manama.

Bahrain has previously said the initial judgment was followed by a second trial that looked into abuse allegations.

Amnesty International and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, a UK-based human rights group, have said both men were tortured to extract false confessions, subjected to sexual assault, beatings, sleep deprivation and other abuses.

The U.N. panel of five experts said it considers Ramadhan and Moosa to have been detained on discriminatory grounds based on their political opinion, for having participated in pro-democracy protests.

It said the case was one of several brought before it in recent years concerning arbitrary deprivation of liberty in Bahrain.

The Gulf state, host to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has used an array of powers to quell unrest after quashing a pro-democracy uprising in 2011, but low-level dissent has continued.

(Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Mark Potter)

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