Bahrain sentences four men to death for killing two policemen

A Bahraini national security court has sentenced four men to death for killing two police officers during the pro-democracy protests that were crushed by the authorities last month.

The sentences are likely to deepen divisions between Bahrain's Shia majority, which has been demanding greater political and civil rights, and the Sunni monarchy, backed by Saudi Arabia and the Sunni-dominated Bahraini security forces.

A further 400 people who have been detained are expected to be prosecuted, according to the state news agency.

"The people are very angry," Ali al-Aswad, a Bahraini MP, said. "This comes as a surprise as the defendants were not allowed any lawyers in court and we did not know what was going on." He added that the government had moved quickly to try those it held responsible for the death of the two police officers, but had done nothing to investigate the killing of 26 Bahrainis, including four who died in custody, during the protests.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and the Bahraini royal family appear to have adopted a policy of systematically terrorising the Shia of Bahrain, who make up 70 per cent of the indigenous population.

The royals have directed the crackdown against Shia activists and institutions. Shia mosques and shrines are being demolished or wrecked and anti-Shia graffiti has been painted on the walls.

Mohammed Sadiq, of Justice for Bahrain, said: "I have no doubt that they [the defendants] were tortured." He said the authorities were trying to prove that the pro-democracy movement had used violence. "They are trying to provoke people to take up arms but we are going to remain non-violent." In addition to the four men, another three were sentenced to life imprisonment for the same offence.

The script of a Bahraini television documentary, released by the authorities last night, contained the "confessions" of the men, according to a government statement. "Today is the day when justice prevails and when the long arm of the law catches all those who betrayed the nation and undermined its security," the documentary said.

The monarchy appears to have largely succeeded in breaking up the pro-democracy movement since it launched a counter-offensive on 15 March. It has detained doctors who treated injured demonstrators. And patients who had taken part in the protests were dragged from hospital beds, according to the US-based Physicians for Human Rights. Even waving the Bahraini flag has been treated as an offence.

The role of the condemned men in the protest rallies is uncertain. They had denied the charges. "They were activists in their villages and we think they were targeted because of their activities," Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Centre Human Rights, was reported as saying. "This will deepen the gap between the ruling élite and the population." Other Bahraini sources said the young men, who are all Shia, were not previously known as campaigners or activists.

Bahrain's state news agency said the defendants had "every judicial guarantee according to law and in keeping with human-rights standards." It did not say when the sentences would be carried out.

Relatives who attended the trial said there were discrepancies in the evidence given by the coroner and the prosecution. Three of the four policemen who died were run over by vehicles.

Last night, Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority, said: "The verdict is a clear indication of the community's utter condemnation of barbarous crimes and a profound commitment to the protection of precious lives, human dignity and fundamental rights regardless of [colour], gender, sect and nationality."

The Bahraini government has traditionally claimed that demands for greater rights by the Shia in Bahrain are manipulated by Iran, though US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks say there has been no evidence of this. Iran has denounced the repression in Bahrain, but there has also been an angry response from Iraq, where 60 per cent of the population is Shia and Shia religious parties dominate the government. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shia, normally stays out of politics but has criticised the Bahraini government.

Eyewitnesses in Bahrain said masked riot police who raid houses often include officers with Saudi or Jordanian accents or Pakistanis who speak little Arabic. Human-rights activists said Bahrain has long imported police and soldiers.

Spinner falls silent

Bell Pottinger, the British public relations firm, represents the Bahrain government in various capacities: the firm sends out regular emails to journalists, including getting out the Manama administration's line at the start of the opposition protests last month.

However, it was difficult to get the firm to talk about its future in the tiny Gulf state in light of yesterday's death sentences. A call to its office in Manama was referred to the managing director in the country, Matthew Gunther-Bushell, who passed on inquiries to Lord Bell himself. Calls to his office and an email asking about the firm's preparedness to carry on its work were not returned yesterday.

At the start of the protests last month, Bell Pottinger issued several emails to journalists, including one about the administration's readiness to receive the injured in hospitals. The Independent subsequently reported that the regime was detaining doctors.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone