Iran denies role in Bahrain unrest, urges respect for human rights

DUBAI Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:22pm EDT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran denied any role in the violent unrest affecting neighboring Bahrain, accusing Manama of looking for a scapegoat to justify its human rights abuses.

"Instead of projecting onto others and raising unfounded charges, Bahraini authorities had better seriously consider their citizens' civil rights demands," the official IRNA news agency cited an "informed" foreign ministry official as saying late Tuesday.

"They should avoid police, security and tribal tactics and pave the way for serious dialogue through trust-building actions."

A Bahraini court sentenced 12 men to life in prison after convicting them of spying and receiving military training from Iranian Revolutionary Guards, a defense lawyer and rights activist said on Tuesday.

The Sunni-ruled tiny island state accuses the Islamic republic of fuelling unrest among its Shi'ite Muslim population, who have long fought for equal rights and privileges.

Last year, Bahrain, home to the U.S. Fifth Naval Fleet, accused Iranian Revolutionary Guards of creating a "terrorist cell" to blow up strategic sites in the country.

Street marches and confrontations with security forces are a common occurrence in Bahrain, where the Shi'ite revolt continues despite strong-arm tactics used by the ruling al-Khalifa family.

(Reporting by Mehrdad Balali; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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