A Bahraini court has sentenced 138 people to jail and revoked their citizenship on “terror-related” charges, the public prosecutor said. Their jail term varies between three years and life term.
The defendants were convicted of establishing a “terror” cell with links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ahmad al-Hammadi said in a statement on Tuesday.
A judicial source said all the defendants are members of the Shia community in the Sunni-ruled Gulf state.
The High Criminal Court handed out life jail terms to 69 of the defendants, the prosecutor said, adding they were sentenced for crimes including joining a “terrorist” group, bombings, attempted murder and receiving arms and explosives training.
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Some members had received military training in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, Hammadi said.
It said the defendants had formed an Iran-linked cell it referred to as the “Bahraini Hezbollah” with the purpose of carrying out attacks in the country. The defendants have the right to appeal the ruling, it said.
Of those sentenced, 60 were in absentia, a defence lawyer said.
Rights group Amnesty International condemned the court’s decision, saying “this amounts to mass arbitrary denaturalisation”.
Bahrain has prosecuted hundreds of protesters in mass trials and banned main opposition groups. Most of the leading opposition figures and rights activists are imprisoned or have fled abroad.
Such trials, condemned by rights groups, became commonplace after a failed uprising in 2011 that was led by members of the Shia Muslim majority in the country and crushed with the help of neighbour Saudi Arabia.
Since the uprising eight years ago, the island nation has seen periodic clashes between protesters and security forces, who have been targeted by several bomb attacks.
The Britain-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy criticised the trial as “deeply unfair” and said Bahrain was using revocations of citizenship as a “tool of oppression”.
Tuesday’s decision took the number of citizenship revocations in Bahrain to 990, 180 of them this year, the institute said in a statement.
“A mass trial cannot produce a just result and rendering people stateless in a mass trial is a clear violation of international law,” institute’s director of advocacy Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei said.
The government denies deliberately targeting the Shia political opposition, saying it is only acting to preserve Bahrain’s national security.
Al Jazeera and news agencies