(Reuters) - A Bahraini court sentenced 167 people arrested at a sit-in outside the home of Bahrain’s leading Shi’ite Muslim cleric in 2017 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 Shi’ite activists، who accuse the Sunni-ruled 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 documents did not specify the charges but a government spokesperson said in a statement sent to Reuters they 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 court acquitted four people in the case.
“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.
The defendants were detained for six months before being released on bail in late 2017.
Mass trials such as this one became commonplace in Bahrain following a failed uprising in 2011 that was led by members of the Shi’ite majority. Scores 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 are innocent and described the May 2017 raid as a “brutal، bloody attack”.