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Mar 23, 9:02 AM EDT

Bahrain sentences 3 to death on terror charges


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- A Bahrain court sentenced three people to death and 14 others to lengthy prison terms on charges they established a terrorist cell with the intent of killing policemen, al-Wasat, an independent Bahraini news website, reported Thursday.

Also Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported that a former photographer for the news agency was released in Bahrain after being held for more than 24 hours.

AFP said Mohammed al-Shaikh is not facing charges, but that he was being held for his work for the news agency. It says the government declined to renew his press credentials in August. Al-Shaikh was taken into custody at Bahrain International Airport on Wednesday, following a trip abroad.

Bahraini officials did not immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment. The photographer's relatives could not immediately be reached.

In addition to the three people sentenced to death Thursday, Bahrain's criminal court sentenced four others to life in prison in the same case. Eight more defendants in the case were handed 15-year sentences and two were sentenced to 10 years. The group was charged with forming a cell that made explosives used against security forces.

The arrest of the AFP photographer and the court ruling come amid a renewed crackdown that over the past year has seen Bahraini activists imprisoned or exiled and the country's largest Shiite opposition group dissolved.

Bahrain was rocked by Arab Spring-inspired protests in 2011 led by the country's Shiite majority. The Sunni monarchy crushed the uprising with the aid of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The tiny Gulf nation is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet and an under-construction British naval base

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