Bahrain sentences two to death for police bombing

AFP , Wednesday 29 Mar 2017

A Bahraini court sentenced two people to death on Wednesday over a deadly bomb attack on a police patrol in 2015, a judicial source said.

Five others were sentenced to life in prison while six defendants received 10-year sentences, including a Shia cleric, the source said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to brief the press.

The cleric, Sheikh Hassan Issa, a former MP and member of the now-banned Al-Wefaq opposition group, was found guilty of using Iranian funds to finance a "terrorist cell", the source said.

One of those given the death penalty was sentenced in absentia.

In total 24 people were tried in connection with the attack. Two were acquitted while 20 were handed prison sentences ranging from six months to life. Eight of the defendants were also stripped of citizenship.

The July 2015 bombing of a police patrol in the Shia quarter of Sitra, a mixed Sunni-Shia village south of the capital Manama, killed two officers and wounded six others.

Authorities blamed the bombing on Iranian-backed "terrorist cells" they say are forming throughout the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom, where mainly Shia protestors since 2011 have clashed with authorities over demands for political reform.

A Bahrain court last week sentenced three people to death over another string of bombings that targeted police patrols in the majority-Shia village of Kurayat, west of Manama.

Ruled for two centuries by the Al-Khalifa dynasty, Bahrain has increasingly tightened its grip on dissent in the country, which lies across the Gulf from Iran and is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Authorities say the protesters are backed by Shia authorities in Iran. Tehran has consistently denied involvement.

Hundreds of Bahrainis have been arrested in connection with the protests. Some high-profile activists also face charges for publicly criticising authorities, including via social media.

The kingdom has revoked the citizenship of a number of activists, including leading opposition cleric Sheikh Issa Qassem.

Al-Wefaq, Bahrain's main Shia opposition group, was dissolved by court order in late 2016.

The justice ministry this month filed a lawsuit to dissolve the National Democratic Action Society (Waad), the country's main secular opposition party.

Access to foreign journalists in the kingdom is severely restricted.

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