DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain has charged 18 people with contacting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the Shi’ite Muslim Lebanese Hezbollah group with the aim of stirring up unrest in the kingdom, state news agency BNA reported on Wednesday.
Bahrain cut diplomatic relations with Iran in January, a day after Riyadh severed ties with Tehran following attacks by Iranian demonstrators on Saudi diplomatic missions in response to the execution of a prominent Shi’ite Muslim Saudi cleric convicted on terrorism charges.
BNA said the prosecution had established after the investigation that the group had formed a “secret cell” to incite Bahrainis against the ruling system and to propagate information calling for changing the government by force.
It said the group had contacted leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the Lebanese Hezbollah group to “obtain financial and logistical support” in exchange for regular reports on the political, economic and social situation in the kingdom. Bahrain has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
“It had been established that the money that had been received had been used to support those held in jail in relation to terrorism cases and terrorist groups to encourage them to carry out more terrorist acts,” the report said.
The agency said 10 of the suspects were in custody while eight would go on trial this month in absentia.
Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based, has blamed Iran for fomenting mass protests by the island’s Shi’ite Muslim majority in 2011 demanding bigger participation in running the country’s affairs. Iran denies the charges.
On Monday, Bahrain more than doubled to nine years from four the prison sentence it had imposed last year against the leader of the country’s main opposition group, al-Wefaq, after an appeals court found him guilty on the charge of seeking to overthrow the government by force.
Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Alison Williams