Members of Bahrain’s Shura Council yesterday unanimously approved constitutional changes allowing civilians to be tried in military courts.
The passing of the measure by the 40-member upper house of the parliament followed that of the elected lower house Council of Representatives less than two weeks ago.
In comments carried by state-run Bahrain News Agency minister of justice, islamic affairs and endowments, Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa, told Shura members that the legislative changes were necessary for promoting security and stability.
“In addition, military courts do not have the authority to put on trial civilians, but those who engage in terrorist acts and violent crimes will be prosecuted by military courts as their acts are considered as armed assault,” he was cited as saying by BNA.
The law changes come following a series of attacks by armed militants in recent months including a January prison break.
That month the kingdom also executed three men found guilty of a bomb attack on police, prompting a strong reaction from the country’s Shi’ite population.
Separately, the government said on Saturday that it had uncovered a 52-member terrorist cell and arrested 25 individuals with 16 others charged in absentia.
It accused the group of carrying out six operations inside the country and planning to assassinate security forces in coordination with Iran.
These included the Jaw prison break and a failed attempt by some prisoners to escape to Iran, according to reports.
Of the group, 10 of the members were former inmates at the prison. They were accused of escaping from jail or helping others to flee, killing two police officers and importing and possessing firearms.
Photos from Bahrain News Agency showed explosives, detonators, AK47 assault rifles and pistols uncovered during the operation.
Four of those accused are said to deny the charges while the rest pleaded guilty.
One member of the organisation was said to reside in Germany and to have arranged the travel of members to Iran and Iraq for training by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, according to reports.