20 December 2017 – Today a Bahraini Court upheld three years prison sentence against the mother-in-law Hajer Mansoor (49), brother-in-law Sayed Nizar Alwadaei (19) and maternal cousin Mahmood Marzooq (30) of UK-based human rights defender Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei in reprisal against his work.
Hajer Mansoor Hassan, her son Sayed Nizar Alwadaei and her nephew Mahmood Marzooq were not in court for the sentencing. The trial was criticised by UN experts and Amnesty International for fair trial violations, including torture, and as a reprisal against his human rights work. Hajer, Nizar and Mahmood each received three years in prison on fabricated charges of planting a “fake bomb” in January 2017. Mahmood was additionally sentenced to a month in prison and charged a 100 Bahraini dinar fine for obtaining a dagger.
The three family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), were arrested in Bahrain in March 2017. After days in detention, during which they were ill-treated and tortured into signing false confessions, they were presented with terrorism charges. During the interrogation, Mr Alwadaei’s family members were questioned extensively about his work in the UK.
Public prosecution evidence papers, seen by BIRD, found no physical evidence – DNA, fingerprints or otherwise – tying the Alwadaei family to the “fake bomb” they were alleged to have planted in January 2017. Their prosecution has depended entirely on confessions extracted under conditions of torture.
On 29 November 2017, Sayed Nizar Alwadaei received additional 3 years sentence on identical charges.
Commenting on the case, Reprieve Director Maya Foa said: “It is disgraceful that Sayed’s innocent relatives in Bahrain have been targeted because of his brave campaigning here in the UK – a country where freedom of speech is supposed to be protected. Sayed has shown great courage in speaking out about Bahrain’s appalling rights record – including the resumption of executions this year, which saw three people who were tortured into false confessions lined up and shot. The Foreign Office has invested millions in Bahrain’s criminal justice system over recent years. The Foreign Secretary must make it clear that Britain does not and will not support the torture, arbitrary arrest and unjust imprisonment of human rights defenders. He must demand the immediate release of Sayed’s family.”
In September, six UN human rights experts expressed “grave concern” over the allegations of arbitrary arrest, detention, death threats and torture in relation to Mr Alwadaei’s family. The UN experts also expressed grave concern that the actions were intended to “intimidate and impair the human rights activities” of Mr Alwadaei. The UN Committee Against Torture has also raised significant concern over the “widespread acceptance by judges of forced confessions.”
The reprisals against the Alwadaei family began in October 2016, when Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei protested King Hamad of Bahrain’s arrival at 10 Downing Street to meet the British Prime Minister. Within hours of that protest, Mr Alwadaei’s wife, Duaa Alwadaei, who was travelling from Bahrain to the UK, was detained at Bahrain International Airport, interrogated for seven hours, barred from leaving the country and threatened. As reported by Human Rights Watch, an interrogator asked her, “Where shall I go first, shall I go to his family or your family?” Duaa Alwadaei was able to leave Bahrain following international pressure and the intervention of the US embassy in Bahrain. Five months later, her mother and brother were targeted for reprisals.
Background Information about Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei and his work, HRW source
In 2012, the UK Home Office granted Sayed al-Wadaei leave to remain in the UK, three weeks after he fled Bahrain, where he said police had beaten and tortured him in the aftermath of anti-government protests in 2011. In 2013, he set up the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, which has publicly accused senior members of Bahrain’s royal family of involvement in serious human rights abuses, including Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa and Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa.
The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has stated they are monitoring the trials of the Alwadaei family. They stated they received “assurances from the Bahraini authorities that neither they nor the Embassy of Bahrain in the UK have been involved in any reprisals against the family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei”.
The US State Department has stated it has “major concerns” over the case, stating they are “monitoring” the situation: “We’re concerned by those allegations [of torture]. We have heard that their confessions were obtained under duress. That would certainly be a major concern of ours. We’re following the cases closely,”
The Swedish Government, in a letter to NGOs, called the case “a matter of serious concern”.
In May 2017, the United Nations Committee Against Torture found there is a “widespread acceptance by judges of coerced confessions” in criminal cases in Bahrain.
- Human Rights Watch:Bahrain: Activists’ Kin Convicted in Flawed Trial: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/30/bahrain-activists-kin-convicted-flawed-trial
- 29 Cross-Party MPs in the UK, condemn the sentence: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/509