Bahrain jails 37 Shias for up to 15 years

AFP , Monday 30 Sep 2013

Group are accused of detonating two roadside bombs in the Shia village of Diraz, wounding four policemen

A Bahraini court on Monday jailed 37 Shias for up to 15 years for carrying out "terrorist crimes" in the kingdom, home to a two-year-old uprising, a judicial source said.

The criminal court in Manama sentenced four of the defendants to 15 years in prison. It jailed six for 10 years and handed five-year jail terms to 27 others, the source said, adding that only two were acquitted.

Eighteen of the 37 defendants were tried in absentia, according to the same source.

The 37 were convicted of "carrying out terrorist crimes on April 24 as part of a group attempt to undermine public security and endanger lives of people and public property as well as attempting to kill policemen," according to the charges.

The group are accused of detonating two roadside bombs in the Shia village of Diraz, wounding four policemen.

They are also accused of "ownership of petrol bombs... and of rioting."

They can still appeal the verdict.

Sunni-ruled Bahrain was rocked by Arab Spring-inspired protests led by the kingdom's Shia majority that were crushed in March 2011.

Bahraini Shias continue to demonstrate in villages outside the capital and frequently clash with police.

The ruling comes one day after a Bahraini court handed jail terms of up to 15 years to 50 Shias, including a prominent Iraqi cleric, convicted of forming a clandestine opposition group.

At least 89 people have been killed since the protests erupted in February 2011, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.

Strategically located across the Gulf from Shia Iran, Bahrain is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and is an offshore financial and services centre for its oil-rich Gulf Arab neighbours.

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