DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A U.K.-based Bahraini activist said three members of his family were sentenced on Monday to prison in reprisal for his efforts to shine a spotlight on the government's crackdown on opposition and rights groups. It comes the same day that a court in Bahrain stripped 15 people of their citizenship on charges they collaborated with Iran to topple the government.
It's the latest round of verdicts against majority Shiites in Bahrain, more than six years after the country's Sunni-led monarchy moved to suppress widespread protests in 2011 with support from Saudi and Emirati forces. The tiny island-nation in the Persian Gulf is a close U.S. ally and home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.
According to Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, his 49-year-old mother-in-law, 18-year-old brother-in-law and a 30-year-old cousin were sentenced to three years each on charges they planted a "fake bomb" in January 2017.
In a statement, Alwadaei said they have been detained since March and have been questioned extensively about his work in the United Kingdom. He said Bahrain's government is targeting his family because of his work in exposing the "government's horrific rights abuses."
In a separate trial Monday, a court in Bahrain convicted 19 individuals charged with collaborating and sharing intelligence with Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah group. The group was also found guilty of receiving funds from a foreign country to carry out hostile acts against Bahrain and of illegally establishing and funding a terrorist cell.
A number of Shiite militant groups in Bahrain have claimed deadly attacks against police, most recently on Friday when a roadside bomb killed a police officer and wounded eight others. Bahrain's government has long alleged that these groups are being backed by Shiite power Iran.
Bahrain's state news agency reported that eight of the defendants were sentenced to life in prison, nine were given 15-year sentences and two were sentenced to 10 years prison. Nine of the defendants were tried in absentia.
The court also stripped 15 of the defendants of their citizenship — a punishing practice that has become increasingly common in Bahrain against Shiites accused of violence against security forces.
The news agency, quoting the public prosecutor's office, said investigations had proven that members of the group had formed a terrorist cell with the aim of toppling the government. The prosecutor alleged that members of the cell had agreed to provide Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah with periodic reports on the political, economic and social situation in Bahrain.