MANAMA, Bahrain, (AP) – Bahrain has charged 23 Shiite activists detained in a sweeping crackdown by the country’s Sunni rulers with terrorism and conspiring against the government, a top justice official said Wednesday.
Prosecutor General Abdul-Rahman al-Sayed said the men, who were among hundreds of Shiite opposition figures and activists rounded up in recent months, also face charges of spreading false information and forming an illegal group that prescribes to terrorism.
The activists’ trial is slated to begin Oct. 28, al-Sayed said. They could face up to life in prison, if convicted.
Shiites, who are a majority in this tiny island nation in the Persian Gulf, have long complained of discrimination in state jobs and housing and claim they are barred from influential posts in the security forces.
Rights groups say more than 250 activists have been detained in the government clampdown, including opposition figures and academics, ahead of parliamentary elections later this month.
The wave of detentions and clashes this summer has fueled concerns of deeper unrest and heavy-handed tactics in the home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
The U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, Janet A. Sanderson, told reporters during a visit to Bahrain Wednesday that she discussed the country’s human rights situation with Bahraini leaders. But she said the Washington is not pressuring Bahrain on the issue.
“We are not here, frankly, to impose our views on others, but to encourage the countries of the region to fulfill their priorities in this area,” she said. “The dialogue that we had on human rights could be difficult, but it is open, ongoing and part of our relationship.”