Five men accused of being part of an Iran-backed terrorist cell planning attacks on targets inside Bahrain could face life imprisonment if convicted, the GDN has learnt.
A top lawyer with experience of defending suspects with alleged links to Al Qaeda said jail sentences of up to 25 years could be handed down under Bahrain's anti-terrorism laws.
Abdulla Hashim added that if the alleged plot succeeded, the suspects could have been facing the death penalty.
"From what we have heard from reports in the media, these suspects were planning something big and had list of targets," he said yesterday, adding the charges they faced meant they "could be sentenced to 25 years imprisonment".
However, he said it was still unclear whether defence lawyers had yet been appointed for the five suspects who have been remanded in custody for 60 days while investigations continue.
Bahraini authorities did not reveal any further details yesterday.
Police announced the arrests on Saturday and said they had confessed to planning attacks on targets that included the King Fahad Causeway, the Saudi Embassy in Bahrain and the Interior Ministry headquarters in Manama, as well as individuals.
Government sources have since told the GDN that members of the cell had set their sights on individuals including diplomats, ministers and TV personalities.
Four were arrested in Qatar, allegedly on their way to receive training in explosives and firearms, and were handed over to Bahraini authorities on November 4, while the fifth was later arrested in Bahrain. Qatari security authorities are said to have recovered documents and a laptop from the four containing sensitive information, as well as airline bookings to Syria.
Public Prosecution spokesman Osama Al Uffi on Sunday named the two ringleaders of the terrorist cell as Abdulraouf Al Shayeb and Ali Mushaima, who are both believed to be in the UK.
They were each sentenced in absentia to 15 years in jail as part of a trial of 21 men convicted of trying to overthrow the monarchy, as well as having links to a foreign terrorist organisation, during unrest earlier this year.
The pair, who are still at large, are said to have hatched a plot to train terrorists in weapons and explosives with help from Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Basij force.
Bahrain's prosecution service claims that some members of the terrorist cell, allegedly funded from abroad, had already been sent to Iran to receive military training.
It has said a full probe is underway to determine the extent of the terrorist network and Mr Hashim - who is also legal adviser for the National Unity Assembly - said there was little doubt those arrested would be tried under the country's 2006 anti-terrorism law.
The five in custody have been charged with forming a terror cell, obstructing government institutions from functioning, breaching public order and jeopardising Bahrain's public security and territorial integrity.
"There is specifically nothing mentioned about weapons or ammunition seized by security," added Mr Hashim, who like many others has been following the case.
Meanwhile, a Kuwaiti delegation is reportedly due in Bahrain to co-ordinate with investigators in the case, according to reports in Kuwait.
Kuwait Embassy officials in Manama were unavailable for comment yesterday.
Kuwaiti Ambassador to Bahrain Shaikh Azzam bin Mubarak Al Sabah told the Kuwait News Agency on Monday that threats targeting the security of Bahrain also targeted the security of Kuwait.
He also stressed the importance of security co-operation among the GCC countries to ensure regional security and stability.