Bahrain: Trial of women's activist 'unfair'

Gulf Daily News
Women's Petition Committee members have condemned a series of cases filed against their leader Ghada Jamsheer for allegedly defaming three Sharia judges.
A statement said that the actions taken against her are unjust and aimed at silencing activities which promote the rights of women, children and families in Bahrain.
The committee stated that she was working to expose failures in the court system, which governs family issues and should not be victimised for doing so.

Ms Jamsheer is accused of defaming three Sharia judges in the media, distributing publications which are claimed to be illegal and also calling a judge and swearing at him on the phone - all of which she denies.

She is also accused of calling the judges backward, corrupt and careless.

Her first hearing was on Saturday and she will stand trial again on two separate cases on Wednesday and on June 19.

Ms Jamsheer said in court that she was being victimised by the Public Prosecution because she called for its head Shaikh Abdul Rahman bin Jaber Al Khalifa to resign.

The judge adjourned the first hearing until July 2 to allow both sides to gather evidence, but Ms Jamsheer's team of lawyers are trying to get the case transferred to a lower court.

She faces up to 15 years in jail, if convicted.

The charges against her have also been condemned by Human Rights Watch and the Arab Programme for Human Rights Activists, both of which called for them to be dropped.

Ms Jamsheer heads the Women's Petition Committee, a network of activists demanding the codification of Bahrain's family laws and the reform of its family courts.

In April 2003, the organisation collected 1,700 signatures on a petition demanding legislative and judicial reform of these courts.

For the past four years, Ms Jamsheer has organised protests, vigils and a hunger strike in an effort to draw attention to the suffering of women in the existing family court system.

Two separate Sharia family courts exist for Sunni and Shia Muslims in Bahrain. These courts hear personal status cases, including marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance cases. There are no written personal status laws in Bahrain.