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Bahraini court sentences four Shiites to death

DUBAI: Bahrain’s top criminal court yesterday sentenced four Shiite Muslims to death for a 2017 bombing that killed a policeman in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, a judicial official and the public prosecutor said. A statement by the prosecutor’s office said the four were found guilty on charges of premeditated murder and possession of unlicensed arms “with terrorist aims” over the June 18, 2017 bombing.

A police officer was killed in the blast in Diraz, a flashpoint village outside the capital Manama. A judicial source involved in the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said all four of those sentenced were Shiite Muslims. Only one of them is in custody, according to the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, which said the three others were tried in absentia.

Bahrain, a tiny Gulf state located between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011, when security forces crushed protests led by majority Shiites demanding an elected prime minister. Authorities have since jailed hundreds of dissidents and stripped many of citizenship, banning all opposition groups under court orders. Diraz in particular has been rocked by protests, police raids, riots and sporadic bombings. The village is home to Bahrain’s top Shiite cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, who was stripped of citizenship in 2016 and is under house arrest.

Bahraini authorities accuse Shiite Iran of provoking unrest in the kingdom, which Tehran denies. Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized many of the trials as politically motivated and said they fail to meet basic standards of due process. Yesterday’s verdict comes ahead of controversial parliamentary elections that Bahrain’s King Hamad has called for November 24 in the key US ally, which is home to the US Fifth Fleet and a permanent British military base. Dissolved opposition parties, including the Shiite Al-Wefaq and secular Al-Waad, do not have the right to put forward their own candidates in the vote.- AFP

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