Bahrain lawyer: 14 sentenced to life in slaying

AP News
Posted: Oct 03, 2011 10:17 AM
Bahrain lawyer: 14 sentenced to life in slaying

A security court in Bahrain sentenced 14 people to life in prison Monday in the killing of a Pakistani man during unrest between backers of the country's Sunni rulers and majority Shiite protesters seeking greater rights, a defense lawyer and officials said.

The decision is the latest in a series of widely criticized sentences handed out in recent weeks in the Gulf island kingdom, including long prison terms for 20 doctors and nurses convicted of aiding anti-government demonstrators.

Also Monday, the court gave 15-year prison terms to six Bahrain University students charged with causing violence and staging attacks. Another student received an 18-year jail sentence, the official Bahrain News Agency reported.

In a separate case, the court sentenced 15 people to 15 years in prison each for the attempted murder of a "military man" who was stabbed with metal bars, knives and beaten with wooden boards, the state news agency reported.

Defense lawyer Mohsen al-Alawi said Monday's 14 defendants _ 13 in Bahrain and one charged in absentia _ were accused of roles in the slaying of a Pakistani man, Abdul Malik Ghulam Rasool, in March.

The official news agency said the man was assaulted "outside his home with wooden planks and metal bars." The report gave no further details on the attack, but many Sunni Muslims from south Asia and Arab nations strongly support Bahrain's leaders, who have given them citizenship and jobs.

Some of those sentenced to life in prison come from prominent Shiite families on the strategic island-nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

Shiite Muslims represent about 70 percent of Bahrain's 525,000 citizens, but claim they face widespread discrimination such as being blocked from high-level political and military posts. Protesters demand the 200-year-old ruling Sunni dynasty give up its hold on power and allow a freely elected government.

More than 30 people have died since protests began in February. Military rule was lifted in June after a massive crackdown that included hundreds of arrests and workplace purges.

Last week's convictions of the medical personnel _ with sentences ranging from five to 15 years _ brought strong denunciations from rights groups such as Amnesty International.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed "deep concern" over the sentences and called for the release of all political detainees in Bahrain, said Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky.

The appeals by the medical group are scheduled to begin Oct. 23.