Bahraini woman, relatives jailed for ‘fake bomb’

AT SEA: A handout photo taken shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) transiting in the Pacific Ocean. An US destroyer has come to the aid of an Iranian fishing boat after a pirate attack off Yemen, the US Navy said. Iran’s coast guard called the US naval command in Bahrain to report the incident and to ask for help following the attack south of Yemen’s Socotra Island, the US Navy said in a statement.— AFP

DUBAI: A Bahraini court yesterday sentenced 19 Shiites to lengthy jail terms on charges of spying for Iran and plotting to overthrow the regime, judicial sources said. Eight people were sentenced to life in prison, nine to 15 years in prison and two to 10 years in jail for espionage and inciting public dissent, according to a statement released by the counter-terrorism prosecutor’s office. Fifteen of those convicted were also stripped of Bahraini citizenship, the statement said.

The court found the group guilty of leaking information to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah and of receiving “material support” from the two forces. They were also convicted of forming a cell to “incite the public against the government and call for regime change by force”. The prosecutor’s office said the 19 belonged to the Al-Wafaa Islamic movement, a little-known group which Bahraini authorities say is linked to the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a judicial source confirmed all 19 were Shiite Muslims.

Dozens of Bahrainis have been jailed and stripped of citizenship since the 2011 outbreak of protests demanding an elected government in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. A key US ally and home to the US Fifth Fleet, Bahrain has tightened its grip on dissent since 2011, drawing harsh criticism from international rights groups for its treatment of the Shiite-majority population. In April, parliament gave approval for military courts to try civilians charged with “terrorism”, a vaguely defined legal term in the kingdom. Bahrain accuses Shiite Iran of training “terrorist cells” that aim to overthrow its government, an allegation Tehran denies.

In another development, a Bahraini woman was sentenced to three years along with her son and nephew yesterday for planting a “fake bomb” in what Amnesty International has called a reprisal case. Hajar Mansoor Hassan, her son Sayed Nizar Alwadaei and nephew Mahmood Marzouq were charged under the Gulf state’s counter-terrorism law with planting a fake bomb, the London-based Bahrain Institute for Human Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said in a statement.

The case has come under international scrutiny over both the validity of the charges and the trial procedures.
Amnesty International tweeted that yesterday’s sentencing was “a reprisal” for the work of the London-based BIRD’s director of advocacy, who is also Hassan’s son-in-law. Marzouq was also sentenced to six weeks and fined 100 Bahraini dinars ($265, 225 euros) for possessing a knife, according to BIRD. All three have been in custody since March. and were not in court for the sentencing.

In a report published on March 27, a group of UN special rapporteurs said there was evidence that Bahraini interrogators had threatened Alwadaei “to take revenge on him” over BIRD’s Bahraini director. On October 26, 15 non-governmental organizations, including Amnesty and Reporters Without Borders, issued an open letter to the governments of Canada, France, Britain and the United States, among others. The letter asked that the governments demand that the authorities in Bahrain drop all charges and release the three.

Hajar Mansoor Hassan was one of five women who last week went on hunger strike for six days in protest at the mistreatment of detainees at the Isa Town women’s detention facility. Authorities have since agreed to their demands, which include clean sheets, privacy during phone calls to family and removal of a glass barrier during family visits. Bahrain-a key ally of the US which bases its Fifth Fleet there-has cracked down on political dissent since a wave of protests began in 2011 demanding an elected government in the Shiite-majority country. Hundreds of protesters have since been jailed and number of high-profile activists and clerics stripped of their citizenship.- Agencies