Bahrain prosecutors charge 169 over alleged militant ring
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Bahrain charged 169 people on Tuesday with being part of a militant group they referred to as the “Bahraini Hezbollah,” the latest mass prosecution in the kingdom amid a yearslong crackdown on all dissent.
Prosecutors said in a statement they already have 111 people in custody after a series of raids on the island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia. Charges against suspects in the case range from attempted murder to damaging property, as well as illegally possessing and hiding weapons.
It offered no names for the accused. It wasn’t immediately clear if they had legal counsel.
Prosecutors also accused Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard of providing arms and training for the militants. Iran long has denied supporting militants in Bahrain. Iranian state media did not immediately acknowledge Bahrain’s accusation Tuesday.
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry separately announced that police arrested 15 people over “Iran-backed” vandalism, without elaborating. The case likely refers to people spray-painting “Down with Hamad” on roadways recently, referring to Bahrain’s King Hamad.
In the years since its 2011 Arab Spring protests, Bahrain has rolled back some of the reforms it made. It has dismantled opposition political parties, imprisoned activists and forced others into exile. The kingdom also has revoked the citizenship of over 700 people since 2012, including 115 in a mass terrorism trial in May.
Amid the crackdown, local Shiite militant groups have carried out several attacks on security forces. Bahrain is a majority Shiite kingdom ruled by the Sunni Al Khalifa family.
The United States previously pushed back against Bahrain on human rights matters, using its influence as the island’s defense guarantor, with over 7,000 U.S. troops attached to a sprawling base in Manama that hosts the Navy’s 5th Fleet. Britain also recently opened a naval base there.
President Donald Trump’s administration has approved a multibillion-dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without the human rights conditions imposed by the State Department under President Barack Obama.