Nine Bahraini Shias stripped of nationality

A Bahraini court has sentenced nine people to life and revoked their citizenship for smuggling arms to be used in “terrorist acts,” the Gulf kingdom’s prosecutor general has said.

The Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said on Monday that the Fourth Grand Criminal Court had found the men, who are all Bahraini-born Shias, guilty of smuggling weapons, including explosives, into the country in a case that dates back to December 2013.

The court in Manama also found them guilty of having contacted an agent of an unnamed foreign country “to carry out acts hostile to Bahrain,” the prosecutor general said in a statement.

Three of the men were also sentenced to three years in jail on charges of assaulting public security personnel in addition to their life imprisonment, BNA said.

In 2012, Bahrain stripped 31 people of their citizenship after they were convicted of damaging state security.

Last month, Amnesty International said that 10 people among the 31 were facing deportation or imprisonment, a move the rights group said was part of an array of “arbitrary” powers that Manama had granted itself to punish opponents of the government.

‘Terrorist cell’

Monday’s case dates back to February 2013 when authorities in the Sunni-ruled country announced they had dismantled a “terrorist cell” with links to Iran, a predominately Shia country.

Members of the group spied for Tehran and its elite Revolutionary Guards, the interior ministry said at the time, and had set up an armed organisation called Jaish al-Imam, or the army of the imam.

Iran denies any involvement in Bahrain’s internal affairs.

Dozens of Bahraini Shias have been given lengthy prison terms after being convicted of involvement in anti-government protests which have shaken the country since February 2011.

The tiny but strategic nation, just across the Gulf from Iran and home base for the US Fifth Fleet, remains deeply divided three years after authorities crushed the uprising.