A Bahraini court has handed down prison sentences to 139 activists and stripped almost all of them of their nationality in a mass trial, which was quickly denounced by rights groups as a tool of repression in the hands of the ruling Al Khalifah regime against dissidents.
The High Criminal Court gave the men jail terms from three years to life in prison, Bahrain’s public prosecutor said Tuesday.
He said 69 of the defendants were given life sentences, while 39 others received 10 years in jail each. The citizenship of all but one of them was also revoked.
All the defendants were convicted of trumped-up terror-related charges, and found guilty of forming of a “terror” cell called “Bahraini Hezbollah Brigades” with alleged links to Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
Iran has not reacted to the report so far, but it has repeatedly rejected such claims as baseless.
‘Another mockery of justice’
The rulings were swiftly censured by two Britain-based human rights groups Amnesty International and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.
In a statement, Amnesty censured the latest mass trial as a “mockery of justice” and “mass arbitrary denaturalization.”
“Today’s trial makes a mockery of justice and confirms an alarming pattern of convictions after unfair mass trials in Bahrain,” the statement said. “This trial also demonstrates how Bahrain’s authorities are increasingly relying on revocation of nationality as a tool for repression – around 900 people have now been stripped of their citizenship since 2012.”
The rights group further said such citizenship revocations constitute “blatant violations of international law,” calling on the regime in Manama to “immediately stop relying on these unlawful measures as punishment.”
Similarly, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy criticized the trial as “deeply unfair” and said the Manama regime was using citizenship revocations as a “tool of oppression.”
“A mass trial cannot produce a just result and rendering people stateless in a mass trial is a clear violation of international law,” the institute’s director Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei said.
This is the second such mass trial in Bahrain in weeks. In the last case in February 2019, 167 people were convicted, primarily for participation in a non-violent sit-in protest against the Al Khalifah regime.
Since 2011, when a popular uprising began against Al Khalifah, the kingdom — which hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet — has prosecuted hundreds of protesters in mass trials and banned main opposition groups as a part of a heavy-handed crackdown campaign aimed at stifling opposition voices.
The latest mass trial came more than a week after US President Donald Trump designated Iran’s elite IRGC military force as a “terrorist organization” in an unprecedented move.
The highly hostile blacklisting drew criticisms from several world countries, which argue that targeting another country’s military constitutes a violation of international regulations.
Unlike other states, Bahrain – along with Israel and Saudi Arabia — welcomed the blacklisting in a statement, which was censured by Iran.