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Bahrainis rally to urge freedom of jailed dissidents

Protesters run for cover during protests in Sitra, Jan. 1, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

Demonstrators in Bahrain have taken to the streets across the Persian Gulf Arab country after a court sentenced 22 people to life in prison and another to death over anti-regime rallies. 

Protesters staged a rally on the island of Sitra southeast of the capital, Manama, Friday and called for political reforms as well as freedom of expression.

They also called upon the ruling Al Khalifa regime to immediately release prominent opposition figures and hundreds of others incarcerated for political reasons over the past few years.

Bahraini regime forces fired tear gas canisters and buckshots to disperse the protesters.

Similar protests were held in the villages of Diraz, Ma’ameer, Nabih Saleh and elsewhere in solidarity with political detainees.

Protesters vowed to continue street protests until their demands are met.

The protests came only a day after Bahrain’s Higher Criminal Court handed down a death sentence to one dissident and life imprisonments to 22 others in connection with the death of a policeman last year.

A protester, holding the Bahraini flag, confronts riot police during clashes in Sitra south Manama, January 1, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

The defendants were found guilty of terrorism-related charges, including allegedly setting off explosives that killed the policeman. 

A lawyer for the convicts said seven of those people are in custody, while the rest were tried in absentia, including the death-row convict.

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations on an almost daily basis in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom, calling for the Al Khalifa family to relinquish power.

Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in the ongoing heavy-handed crackdown on peaceful rallies.

Amnesty International and other rights groups have repeatedly censured the Bahraini regime over the “rampant” human rights abuses against opposition activists and anti-government protesters.

In a report released last year, Amnesty criticized Manama for resorting to torture, arbitrary detentions, and excessive use of force against peaceful government critics, including some as young as 17.

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