MANAMA // A Bahrain court sentenced eight people to prison terms of up to 15 years today after they were accused of plotting with suspected Iranian agents to topple the country's ruling system, a defence lawyer said.
The convictions - which include three activists put on trial in absentia - reflect mounting claims by some Gulf states that Iran has links to the Shiite-led uprising against Bahrain's Sunni dynasty. Iranian leaders have denounced crackdowns against protesters in Bahrain, but deny any active aid to the demonstrations that began 15 months ago.
The group was accused of plotting with a "foreign country" - a clear reference to Iran - to bring down Bahrain's Western-allied monarchy. They also were suspected of planning possible attacks on high-profile targets such as the interior ministry headquarters and the causeway connecting Bahrain with Saudi Arabia.
Four were arrested in Qatar in possession of documents and a computer containing information about vital installations in Bahrain, in addition to flight tickets to Syria and cash in US dollars.
They denied the charges and, those in court, chanted in defiance: "victory is close," after the verdict was announced.
The defence lawyer, Mohsin Al Alawi, said the court sentenced six people to 15 years in person. Three of those were sentenced in absentia, including the son of jailed activist Hassan Mushaima, who is currently fighting to overturn a life sentence imposed last year because of links to the protests in the country.
His son, Ali Mushaima, was arrested last month in London after occupying the rooftop of Bahrain's Embassy with another activist.
Mr Al Alawi said two others received lesser sentences and were freed because they had already spent six months in detention.
At least 50 people have died in unrest since Bahrain's unrest began.
* Associated Press with additional reporting from Agence-France Presse