Bahrain jails 50 for ties to anti-government group - activists

DUBAI, Sept 29 Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:24pm EDT

DUBAI, Sept 29 (Reuters) - A Bahraini court sentenced 50 people on Sunday to between five and 15 years in jail for setting up a group that organises anti-government protests, and that authorities say is working to topple the government by force, activists said.

Bahrain has seen almost daily protests by members of the Shi'ite majority since February 2011, when it crushed a Shi'ite-led uprising demanding that the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty give up power.

Bahrain's Shi'ites have long complained of entrenched discrimination in areas such as employment and public services, allegations that the Sunni-led government denies.

The activists said the government had accused those convicted on Sunday of membership of the February 14 movement, which has been organising protests against the government since 2011.

Bahrain's head of public prosecution had described the group as a terrorist organisation.

Asked for comment, an official said a government statement on the matter was being prepared.

Yousif al-Muhafda from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said that "a group of February 14 activists were sentenced to between five and 15 years in jail".

The centre said there were human rights campaigners among those convicted "under the internationally criticised and vague terrorism law", and that the sentences added up to more than 400 years in jail.

"This was a sham trial with a political verdict, they should be released immediately," the group's acting president, Maryam Al-Khawaja, said in a statement.

Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, which describes itself as a local rights group, said a member of the society's board had been given a 15-year sentence.

Some of the suspects were convicted in absentia.

The persistent unrest has placed Bahrain on the front line of a struggle for regional influence between Sunni Saudi Arabia, Bahrain's close ally, and Shi'ite Iran, which denies Bahraini accusations of fomenting Shi'ite protests.

The Gulf kingdom is a U.S. ally in a volatile region and has long provided a base for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet; but at the same time it faces criticism over its record on human rights that the United States champions.

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

California state worker Albert Jagow (L) goes over his retirement options with Calpers Retirement Program Specialist JeanAnn Kirkpatrick at the Calpers regional office in Sacramento, California October 21, 2009. Calpers, the largest U.S. public pension fund, manages retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million people, with assets comparable in value to the entire GDP of Israel. The Calpers investment portfolio had a historic drop in value, going from a peak of $250 billion in the fall of 2007 to $167 billion in March 2009, a loss of about a third during that period. It is now around $200 billion. REUTERS/Max Whittaker   (UNITED STATES) - RTXPWOZ

How to get out of debt

Financial adviser Eric Brotman offers strategies for cutting debt from student loans and elder care -- and how to avoid money woes in the first place.  Video