Bahrain jails Britain-based activist’s family members

A Bahraini woman and her son were sentenced on Monday to three years in prison for planting a “fake bomb”, activists said.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, head of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), said his relatives were convicted based on confessions gained by torture and said the court was persecuting the family for his activism.

Alwadaei’s mother-in-law Hajer Mansoor and brother-in-law Sayed Nizar Alwadaei were each sentenced to three years in jail for planting a “fake bomb,” BIRD said, while his cousin Mahmood Marzooq was sentenced to a month and half for obtaining a knife.

All three have been in custody since March and were not in court for the sentencing.

The case has come under international scrutiny over both the validity of the charges and the trial procedures.

Mr Alwadaei, who is based in Britain, said he believed the case against his relatives was motivated by his human rights work and especially a protest last year in which he took part against the attendance of Bahrain’s king at a royal horse show in Britain.

Human Rights Watch condemned Monday’s verdicts.

“The judicial process was marred by due process violations and allegations of ill treatment and coerced confessions,” said the New York-based rights watchdog, adding that an appeal would be filed.

“Today’s guilty verdict on dubious charges against three relatives of a human rights defender are testimony to Bahrain’s comprehensive campaign to muzzle dissent,” said Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy Middle East director.

“Targeting family members to silence activists amounts to collective punishment,” he said.

A Bahraini Shia Muslim waves his national flag during a demonstration in 2012
A Bahraini Shia Muslim waves his national flag during a demonstration in 2012 CREDIT:  AFP

On October 26, 15 non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty and Reporters Without Borders, issued an open letter to several Western governments on the case.

The letter asked that the governments demand that the authorities in Bahrain drop all charges and release the three.

Hajar Mansoor Hassan was one of five women who last week went on hunger strike for six days in protest at the mistreatment of detainees at the Isa Town women’s detention facility.

Authorities have since agreed to their demands, which include clean sheets, privacy during phone calls to family and removal of a glass barrier during family visits.

Bahrain – a key ally of the US which bases its Fifth Fleet there – has cracked down on political dissent since a wave of protests began in 2011 demanding an elected government in the Shia-majority country.

Hundreds of mostly Shia protesters have since been jailed and number of high-profile activists and clerics stripped of their citizenship.

In April, parliament gave approval for military courts to try civilians charged with “terrorism”, a vaguely defined legal term in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

Bahrain accuses Shia Iran of training “terrorist cells” that aim to overthrow its government, an allegation Tehran denies.

 

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