Bahrain’s high court has handed long jail terms of up to 15 years to 13 activists, as the Al Khalifa regime steps up its crackdown on demonstrators.

The court issued the verdicts on Monday after convicting the defendants of allegedly possessing Molotov Cocktails, burning tires and attending illegal gatherings in the Salihiya district of the capital, Manama.

The development comes less than a week after Bahrain’s Justice and Islamic Affairs Ministry filed a lawsuit against the Islamic Scholars Council, which is a Shia body, calling for the dissolution of the group and the confiscation of its assets.

The ministry claimed in the lawsuit that the Islamic Scholars Council has been engaged in political activities that “threatened the security of the Arab kingdom.”

Bahrain’s main opposition bloc, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, has censured the move, saying “the regime has declared war on Shias.”

A number of Bahraini scholars and clerics have also signed a petition to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in protest at the decision.

Since 2011, anti-regime demonstrations have been held almost every day in Bahrain.

On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were called in to assist the Bahraini regime in its crackdown on peaceful protesters. According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested.

International human rights organizations have repeatedly slammed the Manama regime for the excessive use of force against peaceful protests.

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