'Black day' in Bahrain as executions spark violent protests

'Black day' in Bahrain as executions spark violent protests
Protests erupted in Bahrain after three Shia men were executed for allegedly killing police officers in a bomb attack, despite concerns surrounding the evidence in the case.
3 min read
15 January, 2017
Demonstrators took to the streets to protest the executions [AFP]

Bahrain executed three Shia men found guilty of killing three policemen, sparking violent protests from those who maintain the evidence used to convict the trio was obtained under torture.

Sami Mushaima, 42, Ali al-Singace, 21, and Abbas al-Samea, 27 faced the firing squad, six days after a court upheld their death sentences over a bomb attack in March 2014, the prosecutor's office said in a statement carried by BNA state news agency.

The announcement of the executions triggered protests in Shia villages, where demonstrators blocked roads with burning tyres and police retaliated by firing tear gas, according to posts on social media.

Pictures shared online by activists also showed relatives of those executed weeping over their deaths.

Authorities in Bahrain do not permit international news agencies to cover events independently.

The executions came a day after demonstrations broke out across Shia villages following rumours that the authorities were going to put them to death.

They are the first to be executed in six years in the Gulf kingdom, according to London-based human rights group, Reprieve, which had warned against the move.

"It is nothing short of an outrage - and a disgraceful breach of international law - that Bahrain has gone ahead with these executions," Reprieve director Maya Foa said in a statement.

Reprieve said the executions went ahead "despite serious concerns that their convictions were based on evidence obtained under torture".

Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, head of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said "this is a black day in Bahrain's history".

"It is the most heinous crime committed by the government of Bahrain and a shame upon its rulers," he said in a statement.

Scores of men and women had taken to the streets on Saturday after the families of the three were summoned to meet them in prison, a measure that usually precedes the implementation of death sentences, witnesses said.

Later on Saturday, a policeman was wounded when his patrol came under fire in the Shia village of Bani Jamra, said the interior ministry.

"No, no to execution," the protesters chanted.

The high court on Monday upheld the death sentences against the trio convicted in a bomb attack in March 2014, which killed three policemen, including an officer from the UAE.

The Emirati officer was part of a Saudi-led Gulf force which rolled into Bahrain in March 2011 to help put down a month of Shia-led protests.

Bahrain is a strategic ally of the US and home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Brian Dooley, head of the Washington-based Human Rights Defenders, on Saturday urged the United States to use its influence.

"Washington should warn its Gulf ally that this would be a reckless, frightening level of repression to pursue, likely to spark rage and further violence in an already volatile region," he said in a statement.

Bahrain, which has been ruled by the al-Khalifa dynasty for more than two centuries, has a majority Shia population which has long complained of marginalisation.

It has been rocked by sporadic unrest since March 2011 when security forces brutally crushed an Arab Spring-inspired uprising demanding reforms and a constitutional monarchy.

Since then, Bahrain has arrested and put on trial hundreds of Shias and cracked down hard on the opposition, despite repeated appeals by international rights groups.