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Bahrain Sentences Shi'ite Activists to Death

A man looks at a billboard in Muharraq demanding no leniency for those who opposed the Bahraini regime, April 28 2011

A Bahrain military court has sentenced four Shi'ites to death for the killing of two policemen during anti-government demonstrations last month.

Three other Shi'ite activists were sentenced to life in prison. The seven were tried on charges of premeditated murder of government employees. Their verdicts can be appealed.

Thursday's convictions are the first related to the anti-government demonstrations. Bahrain's Shi'ite majority has been staging demonstrations since February, demanding more freedom and equal rights.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency says the two police officers were "deliberately hit by vans and run over." The agency calls the incident one of the "most gruesome murders" in the kingdom.

However, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said the court's ruling was unfair. The Associated Press quotes the center's director, Nabeel Rajab, as saying the verdicts were a "message from the government" which he said is "determined to stop the democracy movement."

The Bahraini government has imposed martial law and invited troops from mainly Sunni-led neighboring states to help quell the uprising by mostly Shi'ite protesters.

Bahraini officials said earlier this month that 24 people have died in the unrest. Amnesty International said last week that the government had arrested more than 500 people during the last month.

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

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