|Those sentenced to death include Saeed Abdul Jalil Saeed (1) and Qassim Hasan Mattar Ahmed (5) [AL WEFAQ PARTY]|
A Bahraini military court has sentenced four Shia protesters to death and three to life jail terms for the killing of two policemen during demonstrations last month, state media has reported.
Thursday’s verdicts are the first related to the uprising against the Gulf kingdom’s ruling family, which begain in February.
The seven defendants were tried behind closed doors on charges of premeditated murder of government employees, which their lawyers have denied.
A Shia opposition official named those sentenced to death as Ali Abdullah Hasan, Qasim Hassan Mattar, Saeed Abdul Jalil Saeed, and Abdul Aziz Abdullah Ibrahim.
He told the AFP news agency that Issa Abdullah Kazem, Sadiq Ali Mahdi, and Hussein Jaafar Abdul Karim were
sentenced to life in prison.
Sheikh Ali Salman, president of Bahrain’s Al Wefaq, the largest Shia political group in the country, told Al Jazeera that the punishments did not fit the crime.
“I believe that these sentences should be revised and the international community must intervene to stop this,” he said.
He added that the proceedings were “unprecedented” and that question marks remain over the conditions the detainees are living in.
Government officials have said that a total of four policemen were killed during the unrest that gripped the country in February and March, at least three of whom were run over by cars around March 16.
Hundreds of thousands of Bahrain’s Shia-led opposition have called for greater rights and freedoms in the Sunni monarchy.
Authorities have detained hundreds since martial law was declared last month to quell dissent.
On Wednesday, a Bahraini official said 405 detainees had been referred to military courts while 312 have been released.
“Sixty-two criminal cases and 343 misdemeanor cases have been referred to the courts of national safety,” , Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, the head of the Information Affairs Authority, said.
He said 312 detainees have been released, “some for health reasons,” and others after considering the period of their detention enough.
Bahraini authorities have come under strong criticism from international rights organisations over a heavyhanded crackdown on protesters.
Earlier this week the US raised concern over the fate of detainees, noting that some have died in custody.