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Bahraini activists convicted over 'Iran plot'

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A Bahraini court has sentenced six people to prison terms of up to 15 years after they were accused of plotting with suspected Iranian government agents to topple the Gulf kingdom's ruling system, a defence lawyer has said.

The convictions, which were announced on Sunday, include three activists put on trial in absentia. The case reflects mounting claims by Gulf Arab states that Iran has links to the Shia-led uprising against Bahrain's Sunni dynasty.

Iranian officials have denounced crackdowns against protesters in Bahrain, but deny any active aid to the demonstrations that began 15 months ago.

The group was convicted of plotting with a "foreign country", a clear reference to Iran, to bring down Bahrain's monarchy.

They also were suspected of planning possible attacks on high-profile targets, such as the country's interior ministry headquarters and the causeway connecting Bahrain with Saudi Arabia, which is Iran's main regional rival.

The convicted activists denied the charges.

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 island nation.

The son, Ali Mushaima, was arrested last month in London after occupying the rooftop of Bahrain's embassy with other activists.
 
Mohsin al-Alawi, a defence lawyer, said two others received lesser sentences 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 Iran, a predominantly Shia country, encourages and assists the protests, but have not produced evidence.

Bahrain and its Gulf allies have issued strongly worded statements demanding Iran stop "meddling" in their affairs.


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