DUBAI (Dispatches) – A Bahraini regime court sentenced 167 people arrested in 2017 at a sit-in outside the home of Bahrain’s leading Shia Muslim cleric to between six months and 10 years in prison at a trial in late February, court documents and lawyers said.
Protesters had gathered at the home of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim fearing that he could be deported after the authorities revoked his citizenship as part of a crackdown on Shia activists, who accuse the kingdom of discriminating against them. In a raid on the sit-in, security forces killed five people and arrested hundreds more.
Court documents obtained by Reuters showed that at the sentencing on Feb. 27, the High Criminal Court handed 56 of the defendants 10-year prison terms. The majority received one-year terms. The court acquitted four people.
The documents did not specify the charges but a government spokesperson said in a statement sent to Reuters those convicted were found guilty for the "abduction and torture of innocent citizens and attacks on police officers”.
Two lawyers involved in the case said they had filed an appeal.
The defendants, who were detained for six months before being released on bail in late 2017, were not in court for the sentencing.
"None of the defendants came to the court when the sentences were announced because they feared being arrested,” one lawyer, who declined to be named, said.
Mass trials became commonplace in Bahrain following the uprising in 2011 against the regime. Scores of people are imprisoned including leading opposition figures and human rights activists. Many others have fled abroad.
Former members of the disbanded opposition group al-Wefaq, which was close to Qassim, said on a Twitter account they run under the group’s name that the defendants were innocent and described the May 2017 raid as a "brutal, bloody attack”.