Bahrain executes three convicted of killing Emirati policeman
Abu Dhabi // Bahrain on Sunday executed three men convicted of a bombing that killed an Emirati policeman and two Bahraini officers.
The executions by firing squad of Abbas Al Samea, Sami Mushaima and Ali Al Singace took place one week after the country’s highest court upheld the death sentences for the March 2014 attack.
The bomb killed Lt Tariq Al Shehi from Ras Al Khaimah, who was posted to Bahrain as part of the Saudi-led Gulf force deployed in March 2011 to boost security forces in quelling protests.
The three bombers were members of the Islamist militant group Saraya Al Ashtar, which Bahrain says is supported by Tehran.
Protests in suburbs of Manama broke out on Saturday ahead of the executions, and the gatherings and marches began again on Sunday after the death sentences had been carried out, with reports that security forces had sealed off the Sanabis neighbourhood. A police officer was shot by militants in Bani Jamra on Saturday night.
Bahrain’s interior minister and chief of public security met the US ambassador on Sunday afternoon.
In the 2014 bombing, the attackers targeted security forces near the funeral of an opposition activist who was killed by police, planting three improvised explosive devices the night before, according to the state news agency.
A group, including the three, staged riots to lure police to the road where the bombs were planted, and one of them triggered a device from a nearby rooftop while others recorded the explosion. The two remaining bombs were not detonated.
The three men were first sentenced to death and seven others received life sentences in 2015. A court in October ordered a retrial in the case and the men received the same sentences in December.
The ruling last Monday was the final appeal and the court of cassation once again rejected the men’s argument and upheld the sentences. They were executed by firing squad in the presence of a judge, a doctor and an imam.
The three maintained their innocence and their families told human rights organisations that they confessed only after being tortured. However, Fawaz Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s ambassador to London, said the verdicts were “based on forensics, not confessions as reported on social media”.
The executions were the first death sentences carried out in the kingdom since 2010 and the first for terrorism since 1996.
They took place as the intensity of government crackdowns on the political opposition increases, and amid escalating violence by anti-government militants suspected of being trained and armed by Iran.
The main opposition Al Wefaq political organisation was banned and the country’s most senior Shiite cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim was stripped of his nationality.
In the past two years, Bahraini authorities say they have documented an increase in the training of Bahraini militants in Iran and Iraq as well as sophisticated weapons, particularly improvised explosive devices, being smuggled into the kingdom. A recent report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said the government has also uncovered a number of bomb-making facilities linked to Iran-backed militants.
On the first day of 2017, up to six gunmen carried out a sophisticated assault on the Jau prison, which holds political prisoners and suspected and convicted militants. The raid killed one guard during a firefight and 10 prisoners mostly serving life sentences for terrorism, were set free. None have been recaptured.
The jailbreak “is one of many indicators that Iranian-backed Shiite cells are becoming much more dangerous after at least four years of escalated training and equipping by Tehran”, the authors of the Washington Institute report said.
The claim that Iran is largely responsible for the unrest is denied by opposition leaders, who say the Shiite majority only want an end to discrimination, especially in employment, and greater political representation.
Updated: January 15, 2017 04:00 AM