Bahrain has sentenced a number of opposition protesters to life in prison on charges of plotting a coup during protests in the Gulf Arab state earlier this year.
The prisoners, all Shia Muslim political dissenters, include Hassan Mushaimaa, who leads a hardline opposition group and called for the overthrow of the monarchy in February and March. Abdulhadi Abdulla Habil Al Khawajah, a prominent human rights champion, was also sentenced to life.
Mohammed Hassan Jawad, an independent human rights activist who had his car removed from the Pearl Roundabout, the epicenter of Bahrain's protests and visited Bahrain's police to ask about it, was jailed for 15 years, the Christian Science Monitor reports. He had been charged with conspiracy to topple the Bahrain monarchy.
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The harsh sentences sparked immediate protests in the Shiite majority kingdom, but they were quickly quashed by police using tear gas and sound grenades. Activists vowed more rallies in the evening, CSM reports.
There have been only scattered daily protests since emergency law was lifted on June 1. Bahrain's Sunni rulers, backed by forces from neighboring Sunni Gulf Arab states, had crushed weeks of protests — mostly by Shias — in March.
Representatives from several European embassies as well as the United States — Bahrain is home to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and United States Fifth Fleet — were in the courtroom, where other defendants received prison terms starting at 2 years.
The charges ranged from incitement to attempting to overthrow the government by force in collusion with "a terrorist organization" working for a foreign country.