Bahrain: Activists forced to sign confessions, court told

Rights activists convicted of trying to overthrow the state claimed yesterday that they were forced to sign confessions

As a civilian court in Bahrain began a full review of their trials carried out under martial law, a defence lawyer said that the activists had also faced abuse in custody

The group includes Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike for three months and did not attend the session.

The appeals seek to overturn the sentences. But they are also challenging the credibility of a now-disbanded military-led court created as part of the crackdown against the nearly 15-month-old uprising against the monarchy.

Last month a court ordered a full re-examination – effectively a retrial – of the cases against Mr Khawaja and 20 other mostly Shia activists found guilty last year of plots to overthrow the kingdom's Western-allied Sunni dynasty.

Mr Khawaja and seven others were sentenced to life in prison and the others received lesser prison terms. Seven were sentenced in absentia.