Bahrain on Sunday executed three Shi’ite men convicted of killing three policemen in a 2014 bomb attack, only to face huge demonstrations and clashes with the police.
Abbas al-Samea, 27, Sami Mushaima, 42, and Ali al-Singace, 21, were executed in Bahrain a week after a court upheld their death sentences over the 2014 attack which killed one Emirati and two Bahraini police officers, the prosecution said in a statement carried by the official BNA state news agency on Sunday.
Opponents of Bahrain’s Sunni-ruled kingdom saw the men’s charges as politically motivated and alleged that the men were tortured.
Seven other defendants received life terms.
The executions were criticised by international rights groups as well as Britain and the European Union.
In a post on social media, Human Rights Watch’s Nicholas McGeehan called the executions “unjust and inflammatory.
“Public, unequivocal condemnation imperative to prevent Bahrain killing more young men,” he wrote.
Amnesty International said the executions were carried out “after an unfair trial and despite claims from the men that they were tortured in custody”, and condemned them as “a dark day for human rights”.
Bahrain denies practising torture.
Huge demonstrations and clashes
Shiite activists in the Sunni-ruled, Western-allied kingdom reacted with rage, calling it a “black day” and posting images of protesters clashing with police on social media.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets Saturday in solidarity with the condemned men as rumors spread that their executions were imminent.
Social media postings by activists showed demonstrators blocking roads with burning tires and throwing rocks at police who responded with tear gas in several Shi’ite villages.
Some youths threw gasoline bombs and clashed with police into the night on Sunday. Police fired tear gas and birdshot.
The confrontations continued overnight, with dozens of men and women marching through the streets of the village of Sanabis chanting slogans against the Al-Khalifa dynasty, according to witnesses.
Sanabis was the closest Shia village to the former Pearl roundabout which was the epicentre of a month-long Shia-led uprising that the security forces crushed in mid-March 2011.
The sound of gunfire could be heard into the night.
Protests and clashes continued Sunday despite a heavy presence of riot police deployed in predominantly Shiite areas. Witnesses said shops were shuttered in Daih, where the 2014 bombing happened. Garbage bins were seen overturned and set alight in the streets.
One police officer was wounded when several people shot at a police patrol in Bani Jamra, west of the capital Manama, the Interior Ministry said. It gave no further details.
The Ashtar Brigade, a Shiite militant group that claimed the 2014 police attack and a number of other bombings in Bahrain, took responsibility for the attack on the police officer on social media.
Iran condemns the execution
Iran condemned the execution and what it called an unfair trial. Bahrain accuses Iran of fomenting unrest, including by supplying arms to Shi’ite militants who carried out several bomb attacks on security forces.
Iran called the punishments “reckless”.
“Bahrain’s government has demonstrated that it does not seek a peaceful resolution and a way out of the crisis,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi, quoted by the official news agency IRNA.
“The lack of transparency in the unfair trial of the three Bahraini citizens was confirmed by the international community, human rights and all popular bodies all around the world,” he added.
Lebanon’s Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah also condemned the execution of the three men, calling it “a crime” and “extrajudicial killing” that would undermine any chance for a political solution in Bahrain.
The militant group, which has been critical of the Bahraini government’s crackdown on the Shiite uprising, said international silence toward what takes place in Bahrain must be met with the “largest solidarity campaign.”
Iran’s Major General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the armed forces, said previously the kingdom of Bahrain crossed the red line and vowed its end.
According to the state-backed Press TV, he said: “Definitely, Al Khalifah will pay the price for this and it will result in nothing other than the collapse of this bloodthirsty regime.”
He went on to warn that increasing crackdown on the Shia population in Bahrain will result in “triggering a bloody intifada [an uprising]” in the country.
Iran has also urged Bahraini people to hold arms against the current regime.
“Surely they know that the aggression against Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassem is a red line… that will leave no option for the people but to resort to armed resistance,”