DUBAI (Reuters) - Two civilians will be tried on terrorism charges in a Bahrain military court for the first time under new amendments issued in March that have drawn sharp condemnation from rights groups.
Bahrain’s Shura Council approved the amendments in March on the grounds they would protect the Gulf island kingdom from militant attack, and the justice minister said that those perpetrating attacks had forfeited access to civilian courts.
The state-run Bahrain News Agency, citing a statement from the government’s National Communication Centre, said on Wednesday the military judiciary would consider a case against three individuals, the two civilians and one from the military.
The three were “charged with committing crimes for terrorist purposes, to target military facilities and personnel”, it added.
The kingdom’s embassy in Britain, which periodically issues news about events in Bahrain, confirmed the case and said on its Twitter account “these trials are exceptional and limited to cases where it is deemed necessary and justified by objectives and serious reasons”.
Amnesty International condemned the move.
“This is a shameful move by the authorities designed to strike fear in the heart of the population,” the statement by Samah Hadid, director of campaigns at Amnesty International’s regional office, said.
“It is also a serious blow for justice in Bahrain.”
Most of the suspected militants arrested in the kingdom are Shi’ite Muslims, as the majority of Bahrainis, although BNA did not give details of the three involved in the case.
Anger has mounted among Bahrain’s Shi’ite population since 2011 “Arab Spring” protests they launched were repressed with help from the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s neighbour and closest ally Saudi Arabia.
Bahrain accuses mainly Shi’ite Iran of stoking militancy in the kingdom, a strategic island where the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based, a charge Tehran denies.
The government executed three men in January convicted of a deadly 2014 bomb attack against police, and in February three fugitives were shot dead in a gun battle at sea while two security officers were killed in militant attacks.
Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Alison Williams