Last updated: 4 October, 2011

Bahrain jails 26 Shiite protesters up to 15 years

A Bahraini court on Tuesday jailed 26 Shiites for lengthy terms in three cases involving the alleged kidnapping of policemen and calls to overthrow the regime during a month of protests, the chief military prosecutor said.

The National Safety Court, set up specially by the Sunni-ruled kingdom after Shiite-led pro-reform protests were crushed in March, sentenced nine defendants to 15 years for allegedly kidnapping policeman Mohammed Falah.

The nine had used “force against him and threatened him with serious harm,” said the prosecutor, Colonel Yusof Fleifal, as quoted by the official BNA news agency.

Among those listed was cleric Mohammed Habib al-Muqdad, who was also convicted of inciting attacks on policemen in sermons delivered at Pearl Square, the focal point of the protests against the Al-Khalifa dynasty.

The same court acquitted three others, BNA said, while another was referred to a civil court.

In another case, four defendants, including Muqdad, were jailed for 10 years after being found guilty of kidnapping policeman Saifullah Ibrahim and taking him to Pearl Square, “parading him in front of people gathering there and then to Salmaniya Medical Complex to incarcerate him,” BNA said.

Some of the defendants also took part in “gatherings held with the intent of committing crimes and disturbing security,” it added.

In the third case, six defendants were jailed for 10 years and eight others to five years on charges including “calling to overthrow the political system using force and illegal means” as well as “holding assemblies and illegal demonstrations… and going on strike.”

They were also guilty of “spreading false news” through different means including “falsifying images and providing them to satellite channels,” it said.

The verdicts were issued a day after 36 other Shiites were jailed up to 25 years in cases related to the month-long protest which was quashed in mid-March and followed by a wave of arrests of Shiites.

They also come after lengthy jail sentences were meted out against 20 medics for charges including attempting to overthrow the regime, in .

All defendants would be able to appeal their sentences at a civil court, the prosecutor said, in line with a pledge by King Hamad.

The National Safety Court has a mixed military and civil panel.

Scores of Shiites were also been tried in the quasi-military court, including at least five sentenced to death for killing policemen.

Authorities said in May that 405 detainees had been referred to courts, while 312 were released.