Bahrain court strips 9 Shiites of nationality

AFP , Thursday 7 Aug 2014

A Bahraini court has stripped nine Shiites of their citizenship, for the first time implementing a 2013 law which revokes the nationality of terrorism convicts, a judicial source said Thursday.

The nine men were found guilty Wednesday of "forming a terrorist organisation aimed at smuggling weapons to Bahrain and helping detainees to escape," the source said.

They were part of a group of 15 people tried over a "terrorist plot" against the Sunni-ruled kingdom, for spying for Shiite Iran, and accused of possession of weapons to attack security forces.

One defendant was acquitted, while the other 14, including the nine stripped of their citizenship, were handed jail sentences of between five and 15 years.

Authorities in the Gulf monarchy have in the past revoked the citizenship of Shiite activists on the grounds of damaging state security, but without a court decision.

Hundreds of Shiites have been arrested and many have faced trials over their role in protests that erupted in February 2011.

The protests took their cue from uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world, demanding democratic reforms in the absolute monarchy.

Security forces boosted by Saudi-led troops crushed the protests a month later, but smaller demonstrations frequently take place in Shiite villages, triggering clashes with police.

Bahrain is a strategic archipelago just across the Gulf from Iran.

Washington is a long-standing ally of the ruling Al-Khalifa dynasty, and Bahrain is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

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