Middle East

Four Bahrain protesters sentenced to death

Bahraini men flee during a protest as riot police enter their village of Dai, east of Manama, on 24 March
Bahrain has clamped down harshly on pro-democracy protests, which it accuses Iran of fomenting

A court in Bahrain has convicted four demonstrators and sentenced them to death over the killing of two police officers during pro-democracy protests.

Three others were sentenced to life in prison by the military court.

Bahraini authorities have responded harshly to protests which began in February, following uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Hundreds of people have been detained for taking part in protests, many unable to communicate with family.

The seven defendants were tried behind closed doors on charges of premeditated murder of government employees - allegedly running two police officers over in a car.

Rights groups say they were denied communication with family or friends and had little access to legal counsel.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges, reports said.

Crackdown

The trial was the first publicly announced since the Gulf state was put under martial law in mid-March.

That followed more than a month of protests, during which demonstrators had occupied the now-bulldozed Pearl Roundabout in the capital Manama.

At least 30 people have been killed since the protests erupted, with four protesters believed to have died in police custody.

Bahrain blames Iran for fomenting the protests, but analysts point to long-simmering tensions between the ruling Sunni minority and Shia majority.

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