MANAMA - A Bahraini court has sentenced 12 men to life in prison for spying, receiving training from Iran's Revolutionary Guard and processing weapons and explosives, a defence lawyer and rights activist said on Tuesday.

Bahrain accuses Shi'ite power Iran of fuelling unrest in the country since a 2011 uprising led by the Shi'ite Muslim community demanding reforms and more share in running the kingdom ruled by the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa dynasty.

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Tehran denies the accusation, but defends the cause of Bahrain's Shi'ite opposition.

Attorney Fatima al-Adraj said the court convicted the men on Sunday, and sentenced two others to 15 years.

Some of the men were tried in absentia, said Maskati. It was not clear how many of them were actually jailed.

Last year, Bahrain, which hosts the US Fifth Fleet, accused Iran's Revolutionary Guard of setting up a "terrorist" cell that planned to attack its airport and government buildings.

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