Middle East

Bahrain jails 27 people for links to mass protests

Anti-government Shia protest in Bahrain on 30 September
Image caption Anti-government protests have continued, although the authorities have banned Wednesday's planned event

A Bahrain court has sentenced 27 people to up to 15 years in jail for their part in unrest earlier this year.

Fourteen people - including Shia opposition party members - were given sentences of up to 10 years for their role in the pro-democracy protests.

A further 13 people were imprisoned for between five and 15 years for the kidnapping of two policemen, the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said.

Meanwhile, the authorities have banned a planned opposition protest.

Bahrain's security chief Tarak Mubarak bin Daina said plans by the main Shia opposition al-Wefaq party to stage a human-chain protest on a key road in Manama on Wednesday would "derail public security and block the smooth flow of the traffic".

Al-Wefaq - which wants to protest over the jailing of doctors and nurses who treated anti-government demonstrators - described the ban as "illegal".

It is "an indication of constraints on the freedom of expression", the party said on its Facebook page.

International outcry

A special security court on Tuesday issued 15-year sentences to nine people for the kidnap of policeman Mohammad Nayef Al Falah, and 10-year prison sentences for four people convicted of abducting policeman Saif-Allah Mohommad Ibrahim, BNA reports.

Six people received 10 years in prison and eight were given five years for offences which included organising illegal protests, broadcasting false news and rumours, and transmitting pictures abroad that would harm Bahrain's reputation.

Some of those convicted were reported to be members of the opposition Islamic Action Society (Amal), which the government planned to disband - along with al-Wefaq - until the move was criticised by the United States.

On Monday, 36 people were jailed in three separate cases of murder and attempted murder during the unrest.

Also on Monday, prison terms of between five and 15 years were imposed on 20 doctors and nurses convicted of aiding anti-government demonstrators.

The move has prompted protests from international human rights groups, the UN and medical associations in the West. Bahrain's prosecutor-general has said appeals by some of the convicted medics against their sentences will be heard on 23 October.

Pro-democracy protesters, largely drawn from Bahrain's Shia Muslim community, took to the streets earlier this year to call for the 200-year-old ruling Sunni Muslim dynasty to give up its hold on power and allow a freely elected government.

Shia Muslims make up about 70% of Bahrain's 525,000 people but say they face widespread discrimination.

Military rule was declared in March, a day before protesters were driven from Pearl Square in Manama. It was lifted in June, following hundreds of arrests and workplace purges.

More than 30 people have died since the protests began in February.