It is clear that the situation in Bahrain has come to a head after two months of unrest. A special security court has sentenced eight Shiite activists who have been accused of plotting to overthrow the state to life in prison.

Another 13 demonstrators were given two to 15 year sentences.

Among the eight to receive life sentences are: Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, one of the country’s leading human rights activists; Abd al-Jalil Singace, head of the Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy (predominately Shia); and Hassan Mushaima, an opposition leader, who returned from self-imposed exile in the UK in February after the Bahraini government dropped charges against him in a bid to appease protesters.

…an attempt to overthrow the government by force…

The state news agency BNA said fourteen of the activists appeared in court, while the rest were sentenced in absentia. They were charged with “plotting to topple the leadership of the Kingdom of Bahrain”. Previously, BNA reported the 21 defendants were accused of involvement in “an attempt to overthrow the government by force in liaison with a terrorist organisation working for a foreign country”.

Before the trial, witnesses told AP news agency that Shia demonstrators made roadblocks with sand and debris, and called for marches to oppose the trial. However, no violence was reported.

…cases of torture and arbitrary detention by the authorities…

Human rights groups have condemned the verdicts, saying all those found guilty had been campaigning to end discrimination from the Sunni dynasty. It has been reported that human rights groups have documented cases of torture and arbitrary detention by the authorities against members of the protest movement.

According to reports by the BBC, Shia protesters blocked roads and staged rallies before the verdict was reached and the sentencing threatens to rekindle tensions.

Protests have been erupting daily since emergency laws were lifted on 1 June, which may threaten a national dialogue that is planned to start next month.


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