Bahrain’s Public Prosecutor announced on Monday that it had sentenced 19 unnamed defendants to prison terms for contacts with a banned party it says is backed by Iran and involved in militant attacks.
The cases underscore how authorities in the kingdom are cracking down on perceived threats nearly six years after pro-democracy protests inspired by the “Arab Spring” were quashed with help from Gulf Arab neighbours. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
The government, citing years of deadly bombing and shooting attacks against its security forces, says it faces a militant threat backed by arch-foe Iran.
According to the prosecutor, a court sentenced eight defendants to life terms, nine to 15 years and two for ten years for “conspiring with a foreign state and terrorist organisation working for its interests and receiving funds from it to carry out hostile acts and in order to harm national interests.”
Fifteen of the defendants had their citizenship revoked.
The group it cited was the Islamic Wafa Movement, a political party that is banned in Bahrain and which authorities accuse of receiving money and support from Iran.
A leader in Wafa, Murtada al-Sanadi, is an exiled Bahraini cleric who was named by the United States this year as a “specially designated global terrorist” and appears to be based in the Iranian city of Qom.