DUBAI (Reuters) - A Bahrain court sentenced three family members of a prominent activist living abroad to jail terms on weapons charges on Monday, rights group the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said.
The case underscores how authorities in the Western-allied kingdom continue to crack down on opponents nearly six years after pro-democracy protests inspired by the "Arab Spring" were quashed with help from Gulf Arab neighbors.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, BIRD's head of advocacy, 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.
Representatives of the Bahraini government did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Bahrain, which has a Shi'ite Muslim majority population and is ruled by a Sunni royal family, denies clamping down on dissent.
The government, citing years of deadly bombing and shooting attacks against its security forces, says it faces a militant threat backed by arch-foe Iran.
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.
"I was distraught to see my family suffer torture, persecution and interrogations about my activities ... I will not rest until they are freed," Alwadaei said in a statement.
(Writing by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Gareth Jones)