Bahrain sends more to jail over protests

Nineteen people handed down jail sentences for allegedly attempting to burn police station during protests.

    Protests against the government have continued in Bahrain, calling for more rights for the Shia majority [Reuters]

    Bahrain has sentenced 19 people to up to five years in prison for trying to burn down a police station during anti-government protests earlier this year, according to state media.

    Thirteen men were sentenced to five years in prison, while six were jailed for one year, taking to almost 80 the number of opposition figures and protesters jailed in recent days for their involvement in Shia-led protests in February and March against the Gulf island's Sunni rulers.

    The convicted men attacked the police station "to achieve a terrorist aim, cause terror among the people and spark chaos", the state news agency BNA said on Wednesday, adding they intended to use petrol bombs. 

    Bahrain on Tuesday sentenced 14 members of a Shia opposition party, including its chairman, to up to 10 years in jail for calling for forcible regime change during the protests.

    A further 13 were sentenced to up 15 years for kidnapping two policemen.

    Bahrain last week imposed jail terms of five to 15 years on 20 doctors and nurses who treated protesters during the unrest. 

    'Unfair trials'

    In a statement released on Wednesday, lawyers of the Bahraini medics denounced their convictions, saying they found that "the most essential elements for a fair trial were not available in this trial".

    Furthermore, the medics were subjected to torture during their arrest, including beatings, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, prevention of communication with others, and sexual harrassment, the lawyers said.

    According to the lawyers, the medics were tried in a military court, despite being civilians. "Despite the cessation of the state of emergency, the military trial continued for the medics, which was in breach of their constitutional rights which states that they must be tried in a civilian court as opposed to a military court."

    In that case, a US State Department spokesman said the United States was "deeply disturbed" by the sentencing. The British government also voiced concern over the sentences.

    Bahrain quashed the protests in March, helped by troops from its Sunni neighbours Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

    Protesters were inspired by uprisings that brought down US-allied rulers in Egypt and Tunisia early this year.

    At least 30 people were killed, hundreds wounded and more than 1,000 detained - mostly Shia, who make up a majority of the island's population - during the uprising and a crackdown condemned by human rights groups. 

    Bahrain still faces almost daily protests by Shias angry over job dismissals for taking part in the earlier unrest and over government reform plans that fall short of giving full legislative powers to Bahrain's elected parliament. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and Agencies


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