Feb 26, 5:09 AM EST

Bahrain court convicts 11 in deadly police bombing


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MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) -- A Bahraini court on Thursday found 11 Shiites guilty of involvement in a deadly bomb attack targeting police last year and sentenced three of them to death, according to a defense lawyer involved in the case.

The case centered on a bomb attack that left three police officers dead on March 3, 2014 as they were dispersing "rioters and vandals" on the outskirts of the capital Manama, according to authorities.

One of those killed was a police officer from the nearby United Arab Emirates who was deployed to help bolster security in the tiny island kingdom.

The eight defendants who escaped the death penalty were sentenced to life imprisonment and will have their citizenship stripped, said defense attorney Mohammed al-Tajir. He said he will appeal the verdict.

Bahrain is a Western-allied kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia that is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet and is part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State militant group.

Protesters dominated by Bahrain's Shiite majority took to the streets in Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations four years ago to demand greater political rights from the Sunni monarchy. Those protests were crushed within weeks after security forces from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates came to Bahrain's aid, but unrest continues.

Young protesters frequently clash with riot police in street skirmishes, and hard-line activists have occasionally deployed roadside bombs. Several prominent opposition leaders and rights activists remain behind bars.

Among them is Ali Salman, the leader of al-Wefaq, the country's largest Shiite opposition group. He was arrested in December and denies allegations of incitement to forcibly topple the government. A court on Wednesday postponed his trial until March 25.

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