Princess On Trial In Bahrain For Torturing Detainees

Chris Greenhough

A princess on trial in the Gulf nation of Bahrain has been charged with torturing two female doctors.

Sheikha Noura bint Ibrahim al-Khalifa, who works as a police officer despite having royal blood, is accused of using torture, force, and threats against Zahra al-Sammak and Kholoud al-Durazi. The offenses allegedly occurred during 2011 while Bahrain was rocked by political unrest. Sammak's lawyer says the alleged torture of his client took place in March and April 2011.

The princess on trial is accused of torturing the two doctors while her alleged victims were in detention. Anesthetist Sammak was eventually sentenced to five years in jail by a military court but later acquitted by a civil court. Durazi was detained during the unrest for allegedly inciting hatred of the government.

Nawaf Hamza, head of the Public Prosecution's Special Investigation Unit at Bahrain's Public Prosecutor's office, revealed to Reuters that Sheikha Noura is standing a separate trial for the physical assault of Aayat al-Qormozi, a young female Shi'ite poet and opposition activist.

Twenty-one-year-old Qormozi accuses the princess of applying electric shocks to her face, spitting in her mouth, and beating her while she was held in detention.

Reuters approached Sheikha Noura's lawyer, Fareed Ghazi, for comment. Ghazi said his client did not wish to comment but added:

"Of course, she denies all the charges against her."

While the idea of a princess on trial may seem peculiar, particularly in a staunch monarchy such as Bahrain, Sheikha Noura's case is an example of the Bahraini government's new accountability drive.