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Bahrain court upholds blast death sentences

DUBAI: A Bahraini court yesterday upheld three death sentences and seven life terms against a group convicted of killing police including an Emirati officer in a bomb attack, a judicial source said. The same appeals court adjourned to December 12 the trial of Bahrain’s Shiite opposition chief, cleric Ali Salman, after the court of cassation overturned in October a nine-year jail term for allegedly inciting hatred and calling for regime change by force.

The court of cassation had ordered a retrial in the case of the 10 defendants found guilty of planting a bomb in March 2014 in a Shiite village west of Manama that killed an Emirati officer and two Bahraini policemen. The appeals court upheld the three death sentences and life terms for the other seven defendants, who were also stripped of their citizenships.

The Emirati officer was part of a Saudi-led Gulf force which rolled into Bahrain in March 2011 to boost Bahraini security forces in quelling a month-long protest led by the island’s Shiite majority. In the case of the opposition leader, Salman had been sentenced in July 2015 to four years in jail after being convicted of inciting hatred in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. But the appeals court in May more than doubled his jail term to nine years after reversing an earlier acquittal on charges of calling for regime change by force.

The arrest in December 2014 of Salman, who heads Al-Wefaq, the main Shiite opposition formation, sparked protests across Bahrain. The cassation court had rejected a request to release the cleric. Salman appeared in court yesterday in a hearing that lasted just one minute, a judicial source said. In another hearing, the court upheld life sentences against four defendants and 15-year jail terms against six others in the case of a group convicted of “forming a terrorist cell”, the source said.

The group was accused of setting up an armed organization called Jaish Al-Imam, or Army of the Imam, and of spying for Iran and its elite Revolutionary Guards. The court acquitted 14 others.  Hundreds of Shiites have been arrested and put on trial since a crackdown on the protests that took their cue from Arab Spring uprisings and called for a constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister.
Bahrain is a strategic ally of Washington and home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. – AFP

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