News / Middle East

Bahrain's Top Court Upholds Prison Terms for 13 Dissidents

Masked Bahraini anti-government protesters run through smoke after setting tires alight on a road in the village of Dumistan, January 7, 2013.
Masked Bahraini anti-government protesters run through smoke after setting tires alight on a road in the village of Dumistan, January 7, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
VOA News
Bahrain's top court has upheld prison sentences against 13 opposition figures charged with plotting to overthrow the Gulf state's minority Sunni rulers in a 2011 uprising.

In a ruling Monday, the Bahraini court rejected appeals from all 13 dissidents, most of whom are majority Shi'ites. Eight of the defendants had been sentenced to life is prison by lower courts, while the other five had received terms of five to 15 years.

  • Anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Malkiya village, Bahrain, January 7, 2013.
  • Riot police chase anti-government protesters during clashes in Malkiya village, Bahrain, January 7, 2013.
  • An anti-government protester poses for a photograph flashing the victory sign in front of burning tires on a road in the village of Dumistan, Bahrain, January 7, 2013.
  • An anti-government protester prepares to throw a gasoline bomb at riot police during clashes in Malkiya village, Bahrain, January 7, 2013.
  • Anti-government protesters chant slogans as they hold banner and images of jailed opposition leaders in Malkiya village, Bahrain, January 7, 2013.

The opposition activists were convicted of forming "terrorist" groups to overthrow Bahrain's ruling Al Khalifa family and engaging in "intelligence contacts" with foreign powers - a reference to Shi'ite-majority Iran and Lebanese Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah. Iran denies providing anything more than moral support to Bahraini Shi'ites.

The Bahraini dissidents helped to launch mass anti-government protests in February 2011, demanding democratic reforms and an end to the Sunni monarchy's perceived discrimination against the Shi'ite majority.

Bahrain's main Shi'ite opposition group, Wefaq, responded to the upholding of the dissidents' prison terms by accusing the government of "political persecution." In messages posted on its Twitter feed, Wefaq said the "revolution continues and the sentences ... will energize it."

The U.S. State Department spokeswoman said it regretted Monday's court ruling. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington is concerned the decision "further restricts freedom of expression and compromises the atmosphere within Bahrain for reconciliation."

“We regret today’s decision by the Bahraini Court of Cassation to uphold the convictions and the sentences of these 13 activists. We’re concerned that this decision further restricts freedom of expression and compromises the atmosphere within Bahrain for reconciliation," said Nuland..

"We have repeatedly voiced our concern about these cases both publicly and privately and at the highest levels, and urged the government of Bahrain to abide by its international obligations, and we have also had embassy observers at the trial," she added. "So we call on the government of Bahrain to investigate all reports of torture, including those made by the defendants in this case, as it has pledged to do, and to hold accountable any who are found responsible.”

Amnesty International called the ruling an "unjust decision," saying in a statement that it was "further proof" of how Bahrain's justice system "simply cannot be relied on."

The London-based group again called on the Bahraini authorities to release the 13 opposition figures, saying they were imprisoned "simply for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly."

One of those sentenced to life in prison is Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a rights activist who held a 110-day hunger strike last year to protest his detention. Two other dissidents who received life terms are leaders of the Shi'ite opposition Haq movement -- Hassan Mashaima and Abduljalil al-Singace.

In addition to the 13 defendants, the court upheld prison terms for another seven dissidents who were tried in absentia and remain on the run.

Bahrain's 2011 protest movement was inspired by pro-democracy uprisings unfolding in other Arab nations at the time. The Bahraini government crushed the demonstrations in March that year, sending security forces to clear a protest encampment in Manama and bringing in troops from neighboring Sunni-led Gulf states to restore order.

Frequent street battles between Bahraini security forces and Shi'ite demonstrators have continued, mostly outside of Manama. At least 55 people have been killed since the uprising began.

You May Like

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid