MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A Bahrain court sentenced eight people to prison terms of up to 15 years Sunday after they were accused of plotting with suspected Iranian agents to topple the Gulf kingdom's ruling system, a defense lawyer said.
The convictions — which include three activists put on trial in absentia — reflect mounting claims by Gulf Arab states that Iran has links to the Shiite-led uprising against Bahrain's Sunni dynasty. Iranian leaders have denounced crackdowns against protesters in Bahrain, but deny any active aid to the demonstrations that began 15 months ago.
The group was accused of plotting with a "foreign country" — a clear reference to Iran — to bring down Bahrain's Western-allied monarchy. They also were suspected of planning possible attacks on high-profile targets such as the Interior Ministry headquarters and the causeway connecting Bahrain with Saudi Arabia, which is Iran's main regional rival.
They denied the charges.
The defense lawyer, Mohsin al-Alawi, said the court sentenced six people to 15 years in person. Three of those were sentenced in absentia, including the son of jailed activist Hassan Mushaima, who is currently fighting to overturn a life sentence imposed last year because of links to the protests in the strategic island nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
The son, Ali Mushaima, was arrested last month in London after occupying the rooftop of Bahrain's Embassy with another activists.
Al-Alawi says two others received lesser sentences Sunday and were freed because they had already spent six months in detention.
At least 50 people have died in unrest since Bahrain's uprising began.
Bahraini prosecutors repeatedly claim that Shiite power Iran encourages and assists the protests, but have not produced definitive evidence. Bahrain and its Gulf allies, led by Saudi Arabia, have issued strongly worded statements demanding Iran stop "meddling" in their affairs.
Bahrain also plans to remove its broadcasts from Arabsat, a regional television service, on June 1 to protest what it called a "hostile media campaign" by Iranian channels against Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
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