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Bahrain protesters to be executed

A military court in Bahrain has convicted four Shiite protesters and sentenced them to death for killing two policemen during anti-government demonstrations last month, the Gulf kingdom's state media has said.

Three other Shiite activists were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the policemen's deaths.

The verdicts were the first related to Bahrain's uprising, which was inspired by revolts around the Arab world. The kingdom's Shiite majority has long complained of discrimination and is campaigning for greater freedoms and equal rights in the tiny Sunni-ruled island nation.

Faced with unprecedented political unrest, Bahrain's king declared martial law and invited troops from Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled Gulf countries to help quell Shiite dissent after weeks of street marches and sit-ins in the capital, Manama.

The seven opposition supporters were tried behind closed doors on charges of premeditated murder of government employees. In an earlier hearing this week, state media said the military prosecutor presented evidence that showed the defendants killed the policemen "on purpose" by running them over with a car.

Their lawyers had denied the charges.

Hundreds of protesters, opposition leaders and human rights activists have been detained since emergency rule was declared on March 15. Earlier this month, the authorities banned media from covering legal proceedings in the country's military courts.

Among those detained are dozens of Shiite professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, including a lawyer who was to defend some of the seven opposition supporters in the military court.

The attorney, Mohammed al-Tajer, is one of Bahrain's most prominent human rights lawyers. He has represented hundreds of clients against the state, including Shiite activists accused of plotting against the Sunni monarchy that has ruled Bahrain for more than 200 years.

At least 30 people have died since February 15, when anti-government protests erupted in Bahrain. Four opposition supporters have also died in police custody.

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