25 February 2019 – Today, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld the three-year prison sentence of three family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy for the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD). With this decision, Alwadaei’s mother-in-law Hajer Mansoor, brother-in-law Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, and cousin Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor have exhausted all legal remedies to reverse their conviction and will serve the three-year sentence, which the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found to be arbitrary and unlawful. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) condemns the ruling from the Court of Cassation in a case of reprisal against Alwadaei for his human rights work. Yesterday, eleven NGOs, including ADHRB and BIRD, sent a letter calling on the Bahraini authorities to release Hajer, Sayed Nizar, and Mahmood. ADHRB repeats this call for the immediate and unconditional release of his three family members with a right to compensation.

The family was initially arrested in March 2017 as Alwadaei was highlighting Bahrain’s human rights record at the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC). On 2 March 2017, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei’s cousin and brother-in-law were arrested in their home by force and without a search warrant. They were taken to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) for interrogation and have reported being tortured. Three days later, on 5 March 2017, his mother-in-law was summoned for interrogation at the CID and was subsequently arrested, interrogated and questioned about Alwadaei for nearly 10 hours without a lawyer. All three family members were interrogated on matters regarding Alwadaei’s activism. On 30 October 2017 Hajer, Sayed Nizar, and Mahmood were convicted on charges of placing a “fake bomb” on a public road. The family was sentenced to three years, with the charges based on confessions coerced through torture. Since then, Sayed Nizar’s sentence has been extended to eleven years on additional fabricated charges.

Alwadaei’s family’s case has been marked as a reprisal, as the initial arrests came over a month after January 2017 reports of the “unidentified object” and coincided with Alwadaei’s engagement at the Council, as UN offices have noted. In prison, Hajer Mansoor has been subjected to further reprisal for mention of her case in the UN Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) report on reprisal and in Bahrain’s review under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), having been subjected to increased restrictions, abuse and assault by Isa Town Prison authorities. In August 2018, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) issued an Opinion stating that that all three individuals were deprived of liberty, interrogated and prosecuted for their relation to Alwadaei and targeted in acts of reprisals, casting further doubt on the case’s legitimacy.

“Today’s ruling by the Court of Cassation continues Bahrain’s policy of reprisal against human rights activists and their families,” says ADHRB Executive Director Husain Abdulla. “The case has long based itself on absurd charges of planting a “fake bomb” and repeatedly been correctly identified as a reprisal by the Bahraini human rights community, with abuse and ill treatment  almost always preceded by attention from the international community on their case – particularly UN attention. The Bahraini government must immediately and unconditionally release the Alwadaei family and quash their sentences, and the international community must echo these calls and urge Bahrain to cease its agenda of reprisal.”

Today’s ruling by the Court of Cassation is deeply concerning, as family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei family have now exhausted all final appeals processes in the justice system. Hajer Mansoor and Sayed Nizar will remain in prison until March 2020, and Mahmood Mansoor may not be released until March 2028. ADHRB condemns the Court’s ruling against Hajer Mansoor, Sayed Nizar, and Mahmood Mansoor and further condemns their continued prosecution as acts of reprisal for the work of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei. We call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release the three family members of Alwadaei and to provide them compensation and other remedies for harm suffered. We call on the international community to echo these calls and urge the government of Bahrain to release victims of reprisal and political prisoners, and to cease its policy of reprisal against human rights defenders and their families.