Bahrain charges 25 over attack on police
MANAMA - Bahrain announced Thursday it has pressed charges against 25 men over an attack on police in the Gulf kingdom, where a crackdown on dissent has drawn criticism from rights groups.
Lawyers for the defendants said all of them were Shiite Muslims, who form the majority of the population in the Sunni-ruled country.
The public prosecutor's office said the 25 - including 14 already in detention - stand accused of a February 26 bombing that wounded four officers in a bus near Jaw village, southeast of the capital Manama.
They are charged with receiving military training in Iraq and Shiite-dominated Iran, which Bahrain has accused of inciting 2011 protests demanding an elected government that continue to this day. Iran has denied involvement.
The charges also include alleged weapons smuggling and manufacturing, establishing or joining a terrorist group and attempted murder.
The first hearing is scheduled for October 19.
Jaw is home to a prison where Bahraini Shiites convicted over anti-government protests are frequently held.
The facility in January was the site of a prison break that saw 10 inmates escape.
Tiny but strategic Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet, has been rocked by unrest since the authorities crushed Shiite-led protests in 2011 demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.
Hundreds of protestors, mainly but not exclusively Shiites, have been arrested and many face trials over their role in the demonstrations.
Bahrain's parliament this year approved a constitutional amendment granting military courts the right to try civilians charged with terrorism, a vaguely defined legal term in the archipelago.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Thursday accused Bahrain of retreating from promised reforms and "dramatically" escalating a clampdown on political dissent over the past year.