Three members of Bahrain's majority Shi'ite community, who are bodybuilders, were in court when the verdicts were read on Sunday. The three are Tareq al-Fursani, a gold medallist in several Asian championships, Ali Said, a goalkeeper in the national soccer team, and Mohammed Hassan al-Dirazi, a member of the national basketball team, said lawyer Mohsen al-Alawi.
The men, who are not in detention and can appeal against their convictions, were tried in a military court because they are employees of the Bahrain Defence Forces. They were found guilty of illegal congregation, inciting hatred for the system, and not obeying orders regarding involvement in politics.
Inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets in February and March to demand an end to control of the government by the al Khalifa family. The government, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, said the protests were driven by Shi'ite sectarian motives and fomented by Shi'ite power Iran. Iran denied involvement.
The government cracked down on the protests by imposing martial law for nearly three months, sacking some 2,000 people from government jobs, detaining some 3,000 people and ordering military trials for several hundred. Alawi said 64 athletes are among those put on trial.
King Hamad has moved the trials to civilian courts and promised to implement the recommendations of a fact-finding commission headed by international rights lawyers who said detainees had suffered systematic abuse during the crackdown.
The commission found that there was no official policy to abuse protesters, but that five people had been tortured to death and other detainees had suffered electric shocks and beatings with rubber hoses and wires.