Ebrahim Sharif and Hassan Mushaima Image Credit: Supplied

Manama: A Bahraini court on Sunday postponed to May 12 the trial of 21 suspects charged with plotting to topple the political regime.

The National Safety Court of First Instance said the extra time should be used by the family of three defendants to hire lawyers.

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Under Bahrain's laws, no trial can be conducted, even in special courts, without the defendant being represented by a lawyer, with the court obliged to name one if need be.

The first court was mainly procedural to ensure that all defendants had lawyers and understood the charges leveled against them.

The defendants, 14 in custody and seven out of Bahrain, are charged with establishing and managing terror groups to topple the state royal regime and change its constitution; intelligence with an overseas terrorist organisation to commit hostile acts against Bahrain; attempting to forcefully and change Bahrain's constitution and toppling its political regime; inciting for the toppling of the political regime; collecting funds and paying terror groups, with knowledge of their terrorist activities; possessing documents and publications inciting the overthrow of the political regime; insulting the army; public incitement of hatred and contempt of the regime; disseminating false information, rumours and malicious propaganda that would disrupt public order and harm public interest; inciting non-compliance with laws and promoting a matter that is considered a crime; and taking part in rallies without notifying the competent authorities.

In a statement issued by the military prosecutor on Saturday evening, the defendants in custody are Abdul Wahab Hussain Ali Ahmad, Ebrahim Sharif Abdul Raheem Mussa, Hassan Ali Mushaima, Abdul Hadi Abdullah Al Khawaja, Abdul Jalil Abdullah Al Singees, Mohammad Habib Al Saffaf, Saeed Mirza Ahmad, Abdul Jalil Radhi Makki, Abdul Hadi Abdullah Hassan, Al Hur Yusuf Al Somaikh, Abdullah Eisa Al Mahroos, Salah Abdullah Hubail, Mohammad Hassan Jawad and Mohammad Ali Ridha Ismail.

The seven who are being tried in absentia are Sayyid Aqeel Ahmad Al Mahfoodh, Ali Hassan Abdul Imam, Abdul Ghani Eisa Ghanger, Saeed Abdulnabi Al Shehabi, Abdul Raoof Abdullah Al Shayeb, Abbas Nasser Omran and Ali Hassan Mushaima.

The prosecutor said that all suspects have been provided all judicial guarantees, particularly allowing them to contact their families and enabling their lawyers to attend the investigation sessions.

Shaikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa, the justice minister, rejected reports that the court that has been trying suspects was military.

"It is a special court made up of two civilian and one military judges," he said in an interview. "Defendants have also the right to appeal the verdicts of the court as there is a court of appeals."

The court has so far condemned four people to death and three to life in prison for their alleged role in the killing of two policemen. The verdict was appealed and the final sentence is expected this week. The court has also ordered the imprisonment of a defendant to seven years in prison for an attempt to murder of policemen and damaging of property. It has also acquitted a suspect who was tried on charges of attempting to kill policemen at a checkpoint.