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Bahrain activist's family lose appeal after 'political reprisal' jailing

Rights groups have denounced the case and said the three were tortured. [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 February, 2019

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Bahrain human rights groups and the UN have said the case against family members of prominent activist Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei was based on trumped-up charges.
Bahrain upheld prison sentences on Monday against a prominent activist's relatives accused of planting a fake bomb in the kingdom - in a case slammed as "political reprisal" by the UN - a rights group has said. 

Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, the director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), lives in exile in the UK along with his wife Duaa, and is an outspoken critic of the island kingdom's regime.

His mother-in-law, brother-in-law and cousin were arrested and sentenced in 2017 for planting a fake device.

Rights groups and the UN have said the case was based on trumped-up charges in order to take revenge at the exiled activist. 

On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld three-year sentences against the three, the London-based rights group said, in what is a final verdict that cannot be appealed.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last month said the defendants were "deprived of their liberty... and prosecuted for their family ties with Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei" in "acts of reprisals".

It also called for the immediate release of AlWadaei's mother-in-law Hajer Mansoor Hassan, his brother-in-law Sayed Nizar Alwadaei and cousin Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have also denounced the case and said the three were tortured and forced to make confessions.

Amnesty said it had evidence Mansoor, who has gone on multiple rounds of hunger strike, was a "prisoner of conscience" who was denied medical access. 

A joint statement signed by Amnesty, HRW and nine other rights groups Sunday urged the Bahraini government to release AlWadaei's relatives and "ensure their convictions and sentences are quashed".

"The prosecution of his relatives is the latest attempt to intimidate (Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei) and silence his advocacy efforts," the statement said.

Bahrain, a key US ally located between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been gripped by bouts of unrest since 2011, when authorities cracked down on Shia-led protests demanding political reform.

Since then, hundreds of protesters have been jailed or stripped of their nationality, with Bahrain claiming Iran trained and backed demonstrators in order to topple the Manama government. Iran denies the accusation. 

The high court on Monday also upheld the death penalty for two Shia convicted of a 2015 roadside bombing that killed two policemen in the eastern village of Sitra, a judicial source said. 

The two were sentenced for the "terrorist act" under the "instruction of Iran", the source said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to brief the press. 

Ruled for more than two centuries by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty, Bahrain has a majority Shia Muslim population, according to unofficial estimates contested by the government.

All opposition groups have been banned and disbanded.

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