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Bahrain To Execute Protester For Killing Policeman

Bahrain's special security court handed down a death sentence Thursday for a protester who killed a policeman at an anti-government rally and gave lengthy sentences to doctors and nurses who treated injured protesters.

A government statement said the man was given the ultimate penalty for "intentionally" hitting the officer with his car. Another defendant who faced the same charges received life in prison.

Earlier this year, the same special court sentenced two other protesters to death for killing a police officer in a separate incident.

Twenty doctors, medics and nurses were given jail terms ranging from five to 15 years, according to a defense attorney. Activists said the doctors were arrested for treating demonstrators during the spring uprising that saw Shiite activists take over a central square in the capital, Manama.

The government said the doctors were "abusing the hospital for political purposes."

Al-Alawi, who was the defense lawyer for several medics, said the 20 medical professionals, who were charged with various anti-state crimes, and the protester who got the death sentence on Thursday can all appeal their verdicts.

The harsh sentences in the two separate court cases suggest the Sunni authorities in the Gulf kingdom will not relent in pursing and punishing those they accuse of supporting the Shiite-led opposition and participating in dissent that has roiled the tiny island nation.

A Bahraini rights group identified the protester who was sentenced to die as Ali Yousef Abdulwahab al-Taweel. The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said that another suspect, Ali Attia Mahdi, was convicted on Thursday as al-Taweel's accomplice and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The tribunal's military prosecutor, Yousef Rashid Flaifel, said the two men were convicted of premeditated murder in the killing of an officer in the oil hub of Sitra. In comments to the state-run Bahrain News Agency, Flaifel said the men committed a "terror act" by running over the policeman with two cars. He didn't say when the incident occurred.

The prosecutor said the men were also convicted of other charges, including participating in a "public protest," and "spreading terror and fear."

As for the case of the medics, Flaifel said they were convicted on charges that include taking part in efforts to "topple the regime," possessing "unlicensed light weapons" and "spreading fabricated stories and lies."

Human rights groups blasted the ruling against the medics and said legal proceedings against Bahrain's doctors and nurses were a "travesty of justice."

"These are simply ludicrous charges against civilian professionals who were working to save lives," said Philip Luther of Amnesty International.

Hundreds of activists have been imprisoned since March when Bahrain's rulers imposed martial law to deal with protests by the country's Shiite majority demanding greater rights and freedoms.

More than 30 people have been killed since the protests began in February, inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere. The Sunni monarchy that rules this strategically important Gulf nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, responded with a violent crackdown.

Thursday's sentences came a day after the tribunal upheld sentences for 21 activists convicted for their roles in the protests, including eight prominent political figures who were given life terms on charges of trying to overthrow the kingdom's rulers.

NPR's Peter Kenyon reported from Istanbul for this story, which contains material from The Associated Press.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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