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Bahrain Sentences 3 for Spying, Reportedly for Iran

A Bahraini criminal court has sentenced three people to prison for spying - foreign news reports say the spying was on behalf of Iran.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency (BNA)) reported Tuesday that one Bahraini and two foreigners were given 10-year sentences and fined for collecting information on military and economic facilities. It said the two foreigners live in Kuwait and were sentenced in absentia.

The Bahrain report said the three men passed "intelligence information" to a foreign country, which it did not specify. Other news organizations said the convictions related to passing information to Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

In a separate development, a U.S.-based rights group has accused Bahrain of carrying out a "vindictive campaign of violent repression" against its citizens.

Human Rights Watch says it has evidence of widespread arbitrary arrests, unfair trials and the torture of citizens who have taken part in anti-government protests.

The kingdom's Shi'ite majority began protests in mid-February to demand more representation in the Sunni-led government and a new constitution.

Bahrain says 24 people were killed during a wave of opposition protests in February and March. Security forces cracked down on the protest movement with the help of troops from neighboring Gulf states.

Bahrain's Sunni rulers and opposition leaders this week began a national dialogue on the reform demands made by the protesters.

The Bahrain News Agency says the talks, which got under way on Tuesday, represent a "crucial stage" in the path to democracy.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.