x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Bahrain jails nine for 20 years for policeman kidnap

UK prime minister David Cameron due to raise the crackdown on protesters by Bahrain¿s authorities in meeting with Bahraini crown prince.

A special security court in Bahrain has sentenced nine people to 20 years in prison each after it convicted them of abducting a policeman, the state news agency BNA reported.

"The Lower National Safety Court sentenced nine defendants accused of kidnapping one policeman to 20 years in prison," according to an English-language statement on BNA that did not give further details.

Among those sentenced was Sheikh Mohammed Habib al Safaf, a Shiite cleric who had previously been arrested along with 22 other activists and charged with terrorism.

The group was freed under a royal pardon in February after the outbreak of protests calling for democratic reforms in Bahrain.

The court was set up under the state of national safety, a lower level of emergency law declared by King Hamad in mid-March, a day before an all-out crackdown on a month-long, Shiite-dominated protest movement demanding political reforms.

Defendants have the right to appeal against the court's rulings within 15 days.

Last month, authorities said that 405 detainees have been referred to national safety courts, of whom 312 had been released.

The National Safety Appeals Court last month sentenced four Shiites to death and three others to jail for life for killing two policemen by running them over with cars during the protests.

Their case has drawn condemnation from Amnesty International, which urged Bahrain to halt the executions.

In a statement released yesterday, Amnesty also condemned the conviction of a number of other activists it said were sentenced to between one and four years in jail earlier this week.

"These trials and convictions represent yet further evidence of the extent to which the rights to freedom of speech and assembly are now being denied in Bahrain," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's Middle East and north Africa director, said in the statement.

It also said that leading Bahraini activist Abdulhadi al Khawaja had said in court that he was threatened with rape by police after refusing to record a taped apology to the king.

"The Bahraini authorities must immediately launch an independent investigation into Abdulhadi al Khawaja's torture allegations and bring to justice any officials responsible for torture or other ill-treatment," Smart said.

Nine policemen were hurt on Tuesday when a car hit them as they were dispersing a protest in a Bahraini Shiite village, BNA said.

Four of the policemen sustained critical injuries in the attack that took place in Nuwaidrat, south of Manama, said BNA quoting a police official.

Bahraini authorities have said 24 people were killed during the month-long unrest, most of them demonstrators.

Ÿ The British government said Prime Minister David Cameron was due to raise the crackdown on protesters by Bahrain's authorities when he met the Bahraini crown prince.

The prime minister's office in London said Mr Cameron and Salman bin Hammed Al Khalif were due to meet late yesterday and were expected to discuss recent revolts across the Middle East and north Africa, the Middle East peace process and the situation in Bahrain.

The crown prince's visit to London comes after he declined an invitation to attend Prince William's wedding on April 29, saying he did not want Bahrain's unrest to tarnish the celebration.