Manama: Nineteen Bahrainis facing charges of killing a Pakistani policeman were yesterday acquitted by the High Criminal Court. The verdict was greeted by scenes of jubilation in the accused's home villages.
The men had been arrested in connection with the death of Majid Asghar Ali Kareem Baksh, a 24-year-old Pakistani policeman in Karzakan, a village 20km south of Manama. Baksh died on April 9, 2008.
According to the charges, the men were accused of hurling a Molotov cocktail into the police car and caused Baksh's death while three other officers with the deceased in the car.
The men were quickly arrested in massive manhunts conducted by the police in Karzakan and other villages within the vicinity. They were later charged with the premeditated murder of a policeman, the attempted murder of other policemen and destruction of public property.
However, their trial has deeply divided the country amid claims made by their supporters that there was no evidence against them. Others have also argued that they were covered by a decree granting a royal pardon to 178 people held on security-related charges that was announced by King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa in April this year.
However, the supporters' claims were rejected by several MPs who argued that the men could not be included in the royal pardon because of the nature of the accusation. The lawmakers argued that the accused should be tried for the murder of the on-duty policeman unless his family accepted blood money and forgave them.
Al Wefaq, the largest parliamentary bloc, repeatedly tried to reach an out-of-court settlement with the policeman's family but its efforts failed. This prompted independent MP Jasem Al Saeed, to accuse the society of "blatant interference in the course of justice."
Al Wefaq on Monday appealed through its president, MP Ali Salman, for a court decision that would help ease mounting tensions and promote social peace in Bahrain.
The announcement of the acquittal in the presence of human rights and political observers sparked scenes of jubilation and celebrations by euphoric parents and friends who felt their loved ones had been vindicated by the judges.