Manama condemns 167 people to prison for the 2017 Shiite uprisings

The verdict is at the end of February, but the news emerged only in these hours. Defendants will have to serve sentences from one year to a maximum of 10 years in prison. Guilty of "kidnapping and torture of innocent citizens". The arrests took place during a protest rally against the extradition of the Ayatollah Isa Qassim.

Manama (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A Bahrain court sentenced 167 people to prison in 2017, during a protest in front of the house of a leading Shiite leader. The judge issued the verdict at the end of February, but the news only emerged today; defendants received sentences ranging from six months to a maximum of 10 years.

At the time, a group of demonstrators had gathered outside the home of the Ayatollah Isa Qassim to protest his possible extradition, following the revocation of citizenship decided by Manama. In the context of a raid against supporters of the Shiite leader, security forces killed five people and made hundreds of arrests.

According to court documents published by Reuters, the High Criminal Court issued 56 sentences at 10 years in prison on February 27th. The majority of the defendants will have to serve one year in prison. The judges have acquitted four people of all charges.

The papers do not specify the charges, but a government spokesman said in a statement that the convicts were found guilty of "kidnapping and torture of innocent citizens and attacking police officers".

Two defense lawyers have already anticipated the intention to appeal. The defendants, who have already served six months in custody in prison before the trial and were released on bail at the end of 2017, were not present in the courtroom to read the sentence.

Many Shiite citizens denounce a campaign of persecution by the authorities, characterized by dismissals from government or public offices and by a general treatment as second-class citizens. In response, the Manama authorities deny wanting to hit Shiite activists, stressing that individual rights are guaranteed and "ethnic origins are never taken into consideration under any circumstances in Bahrain".

Bahrain is a Gulf monarchy ruled by a Sunni dynasty in a country where the majority of the population (at least 60-70%) is Shia and want constitutional changes and social and economic rights. In 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring, riots broke out that the king of Bahrain – a US ally supported by Riyadh – put down with Saudi military aid.

In recent years, authorities authorities arrested and sentenced Shia activists and religious leaders and suspended the activities of Al-Wefaq, the main Shia opposition group, on charges of terrorism, extremism and violence as well as ties to a foreign power (i.e. Iran).In this context, at the end of January the Supreme Court - the highest judicial body - confirmed with sentence the sentence to life imprisonment for the Shiite opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman.