Amnesty urges Bahrain to commute death sentences

AP News
Posted: May 24, 2011 10:50 AM
Amnesty urges Bahrain to commute death sentences

Amnesty International urged Bahrain to overturn the death sentences of two people arrested during Shiite-led anti-government protests in the Gulf island kingdom.

The sentences were upheld Sunday by a special closed-door appeals court presided over by military and civilian judges. The defendants were convicted of killing two policemen during a government crackdown on the unrest in March.

Amnesty, a leading human rights group, urged Bahrain's king to commute the sentences in a statement Monday. The executions could also be blocked by the country's highest court.

At least 30 people have been killed since protests began in February by Bahrain's majority Shiites. They are seeking greater rights and political freedoms from the country's Sunni rulers. Hundreds have been detained in the kingdom, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

A top official said this week that 515 detainees have been released since martial law-style emergency powers were put in place in March. Although the government has lifted some restrictions such as an overnight curfew, rights groups have said the government continues to intimidate and silence those it sees as threat to its more than 200-year rule.

Mazen Mahdi, a Bahraini journalist who works for DPA, was briefly detained by Bahraini authorities Sunday, the German press agency said Tuesday. Mahdi, who also works as a photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency, said he was abused while in custody for about two hours, according to DPA spokesman Christian Roewekamp.

A government spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Reuters' correspondent was expelled by Bahrain earlier this month after officials complained about the news agency's reporting in the kingdom.