RIYADH: Bahrain this week jailed a freelance photographer for 10 years and stripped him of his nationality after convicting him of terrorism, the media rights group Reporters sans Frontiers said yesterday. Sayed Ahmed Al-Mousawi was accused of giving mobile phone SIM cards to demonstrators and taking photographs of anti-government protests, RSF reported. A report on Bahrain News Agency late on Monday quoted Prosecution Advocate General Ahmed Al-Hammadi as saying the High Court had sentenced three defendants to 15 years in prison and three to 10 years for setting up and joining a terrorist cell. None of those sentenced were named and it was not clear if Mousawi was among them.

It quoted him as saying they had trained to make explosives, conducted illegal rallies, possessed petrol bombs, committed forgery for the purpose of terrorism and attempted murder in 2013 and 2014. The island kingdom, which hosts the US Fifth Fleet in the Gulf, has experienced sporadic unrest since mass protests in 2011 led by majority Shiites demanding reforms and a bigger role in government.

The government denies opposition charges it discriminates against Shiites and says the opposition has a sectarian agenda and is backed by Shiite power Iran, a charge Tehran and Shiite groups deny. In a separate case reviewed by the same court, a judge sentenced 16 defendants to 15 years in prison and three others to 10 years, BNA quoted Hammadi as saying. On Nov 16, Bahrain jailed 12 people and revoked their citizenship for carrying out bomb attacks on police in 2013 and 2014, it said.

Separately, Bahrain criticized as misleading a Human Rights Watch report accusing the kingdom's authorities of torturing detainees during interrogation and granting security officials impunity. The report, published Monday, is "misleading, unbalanced and controversial," said Information Minister Isa Al-Hammadi in remarks on BNA. It is "based on false information." Bahrain has established "independent national watchdogs to probe any alleged illegal practices involving detainees, inmates or others," said Hammadi, adding that such action is taken "seriously" by the kingdom.

"We have a clear policy of cooperation with international organizations which are willing to do so," he said, adding that "Bahrain is no need for politicized watchdogs which work through an agenda," apparently referring to HRW. New York-based HRW has said regulatory bodies set up after the 2011 to end torture in interrogation and detention facilities "lack independence".

HRW spoke of cases of physical torture amid a "complete lack of accountability for the abuse of detainees". It said it interviewed 10 detainees "who said they endured coercive interrogations" by authorities. In another statement on BNA, the government said it was "reviewing" the content of HRW's report, "including a series of anonymous allegations it contains, and recommendations." It urged HRW to provide the three institutions, controlled by the interior ministry and public prosecutor, "with sufficient information to enable them to conduct effective investigations." - Agencies