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Bahrain court sentences 17 Shia protestors on terrorism charges

Bahrain police raided a town where the sit-in has been going on for months in support of Sheikh Isa Qassim, a prominent Shia cleric.

world Updated: May 25, 2017 21:18 IST
Reuters, Dubai
Bahrain,Bahrain unrest,Bahrain protest
This image provided by an activist who requested to remain unnamed, shows Bahraini security forces during a raid on a sit-in demonstration, in Diraz, Bahrain, Tuesday, May 23, 2017. (AP Photo)

A Bahrain court sentenced 17 men to jail terms ranging from several years to life imprisonment on charges of forming a terrorist cell, the public prosecutor said on Thursday, days after a police raid killed five demonstrators.

Both the court ruling and Tuesday’s police operation targeting a village outside the capital Manama signal a strong line by the Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdom against the mostly Shia opposition amid increased sectarian tensions.

The opposition says it is seeking more rights and better representation for Bahrain’s majority Shi’ite population, but the authorities accuse it of seeking to overthrow the government by force with the help of the kingdom’s arch-foe Iran.

“The 17 men (were) accused of the felony of establishing a terrorist group, joining that group, attempted murder of a public official and training on the use of weapons and explosives,” the prosecutor said in a statement.

Five were sentenced to life imprisonment, three of them to 10 years in jail and the rest to shorter terms. Eight of the men had their citizenship revoked. No further details were available.

Read more | Saudi Arabia defends Bahrain’s deadly crackdown on Shia protestors

Mounting gun and bomb attacks against Bahraini security forces, along with shootings of suspected militants, have ramped up tensions this year in the island kingdom.

Tuesday’s police raid in Diraz village led to the arrest of 286 people and was the deadliest day of violence in the Western-allied kingdom since the “Arab Spring” protests of 2011.

Forces entered the home of Shia spiritual leader Isa Qassim aiming to round up suspects wanted in security cases, the interior ministry said, but activists say the raid targeted Shia Muslims and used excessive force.

The raid and the court verdict come days after President Donald Trump said U.S. ties with Bahrain -- long strained over its human rights record -- would improve.

First Published: May 25, 2017 21:18 IST