Dubai: A Bahrain emergency appeals court upheld death sentences on Sunday for two men found guilty of killing police officers during recent unrest, punishments human rights activists said were designed to prevent more protests.
Two other death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment, the state news agency said.
The report did not say when the two executions would be carried out. The four men had originally been sentenced to death on April 28.
Bahrain, home of the US Fifth Fleet, faced a wave of Shi'ite-led protests in February and March demanding democratic reforms and an end to sectarian discrimination in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. Some hardliners demanded a republic.
Bahrain's rulers imposed emergency law and called in troops from neighbouring Gulf countries in March to quash the protests that amounted to the greatest threat to the island kingdom's Sunni rulers in Bahrain's history.
Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, questioned the ruling.
"This is a political case and it's aimed at stopping the protests," Rajab said by telephone. "It's believed that they were targeted because of their (political) activities."
He said one of the two people whose death sentence was upheld had been in a cast that covered his left leg and was dependent on crutches when the killing took place.
"The man had a broken leg and was moving with crutches, how could he drive a car?" he added.
A hospital source said in March that at least two of four Bahraini policemen killed during the protests had been run over by cars on March 16. The government says it has only targeted those who committed crimes during the protests.
The death sentences were only the third in more than three decades issued against Bahraini citizens of Bahrain.
One of the prior death penalty cases came in the mid-1990s, during the greatest political unrest Bahrain had seen before this year. A protester was put to death by firing squad for killing a policeman during that time.
First Published: Sunday, May 22, 2011, 15:43