DUBAI (Reuters) - A Bahraini court on Sunday sentenced six people to 15 years in jail each for plotting with Shi’ite Iran to stage attacks on targets including the Saudi embassy and the Interior Ministry, the official BNA news agency and a lawyer said.
Bahrain, a U.S. ally and home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has been in turmoil since pro-democracy protests led by majority Shi’ites erupted last year after revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.
The Sunni-led island, along with fellow Gulf Arab countries, have accused Iran of being behind the unrest which continues to rock the country. Iran denies fomenting unrest in Bahrain.
BNA said three of those convicted were in contact with Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Basij militia “to target sensitive and vital infrastructure facilities” in Bahrain, according to investigations by the public prosecution.
Opposition activists were not immediately available to comment.
Bahrain said in November it had arrested the men and broken up a cell planning to target its Interior Ministry, the Saudi embassy in Manama and a causeway linking the island state to Saudi Arabia had been. Four men were handed over by Qatar.
Iran denied it had any link to an alleged plot to stage attacks in Bahrain.
Three of the men were sentenced in absentia, including Ali Mushaima, the son of jailed Shi’ite dissident leader Hassan Mushaima, said Mohsen al-Alawi, lawyer for two other men who were found not guilty.
The court’s verdict can be appealed, said Alawi.
Bahrain’s rulers have rejected opposition calls for an elected government and protests and clashes with police continue weekly. The authorities have dubbed the opposition Iranian lackeys because most of them are Shi’ites, like most people in Iran. They have vowed to get tough on security as talks with the opposition stalled.
The desire to contain Shi’ite dissent in Bahrain and counter Iran’s sway drove efforts to unify the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which stumbled at a meeting of their leaders earlier this month.
Reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Jon Hemming