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Trial of ex-editors of opposition Bahraini newspaper delayed

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Bahrain journalist on trial
  • NEW: The trial has been postponed until Sunday
  • The three men are charged with fabrication of news to disturb public security
  • Al-Wasat newspaper is accused of "deliberate news fabrication" during Bahrain's unrest
  • The government has tried to crack down on protests

(CNN) -- The trial of three Bahraini opposition journalists accused of fabricating news to disrupt peace during the civil unrest in the Gulf state adjourned after a few minutes Wednesday.

Civilian High Court judges postponed proceedings until Sunday after the defense presented documents showing detailed communications between editors of Al-Wasat newspaper, King Hamad and other top government officials.

In the correspondence, the editors express their beliefs that they're working for peace and stability. Other communications with senior officials discuss articles from the paper that call for calm and restraint.

Mansoor al-Jamri, former editor-in-chief of the publication, Walid Nouwaihidh, former managing editor and Aqeel Mirza, the former head of the local news department, are on trial after being forced to quit the publication in April. A fourth man, Ali al-Sharifi, is being tried in absentia.

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"Al-Wasat newspaper has been charged with fabricating news knowingly and with the aim of spreading some sort of discord and unrest amongst the population, which is not true," al-Jamri told CNN.

After Wednesday's delay, he said he is encouraged that the judges want to hear the evidence in the case.

At the time the men were forced from Al-Wasat in April, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported that the Information Affairs Authority had "instigated legal proceedings" against the daily newspaper following the firings.

"The flagrant press irregularities committed by Bahrain daily Al-Wasat will be referred to the International Federation of Journalists and the Arab Journalists Union," the news agency reported.

Accusations against Al-Wasat also included "deliberate news fabrication and falsification during the recent unrest which gripped the Kingdom of Bahrain," according to the news agency.

Bahrain is one of several Middle East and North African countries embroiled in anti-government protests. To quell the protests, the Bahraini government called in troops from member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The ruling royal family -- Sunnis in a majority-Shiite nation -- accuses protesters of being motivated by sectarian differences and supported by Iran.

"Every Shia now is a criminal," al-Jamri said. "Every Shia in Bahrain is considered by the state ... an enemy of the state and unfortunately this is not a recipe for calm in the future."

Government officials say 1,300 people were dismissed from their jobs, but up to 900 have been reinstated.

But it's a figure opposition sources dispute, saying they believe more than 2,000 jobs have been lost, nearly all of them held by Shia Muslims.

CNN's Nic Robertson and Mohammed Jamjoom contributed to this report.

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