A court in Bahrain has sentenced five opposition protesters to 15 years in prison as the Al Khalifa regime continues its crackdown on dissent.
According to a report by Bahrain’s official BNA news agency, the regime accused the men of being behind two bomb attacks, including one during last year’s Formula 1 race. Two of the defendants were tried in absentia.
The agency said the protesters had admitted being involved in the attacks. However, activists say that they pleaded not guilty.
The men were also convicted of a number of other counts in connection with explosives, the agency added.
Meanwhile, Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, said the protesters told the court that they confessed under torture.
The tiny Persian Gulf monarchy is accused of extensive and excessive use of force against protesters, including confessions under torture.
Bahrainis have been staging demonstrations since mid-February 2011, calling for political reforms and a constitutional monarchy, a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on popular protests.
In October, Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, said, “The [Bahraini] authorities simply slap the label ‘terrorist’ on defendants and then subject them to all manner of violations to end up with a ‘confession’.”