BIRD Calls for Investigation into Death of Bahraini Political Prisoner

  • Bahrain’s government confirms death of political prisoner Abbas Hassan Ali at Jau Prison this morning
  • Eyewitness reported a delay of up to 1 hour 20 minutes before Abbas was transferred to hospital
  • Death comes as protests spread across Bahrain over continued detention of political prisoners amid COVID-19 outbreak at Jau Prison, with dozens of arrests reported today
  • Local activists report over 70 positive cases within the prison


6 April 2021 – Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior has confirmed that 49-year-old political prisoner Abbas Hassan Ali, also known as Abbas Mallallah, has died from a heart attack at Jau Prison, amid eyewitness reports that prison authorities failed to provide him with timely care as they struggle to contain a severe outbreak of coronavirus. Authorities must launch an immediate and independent investigation into the causes of his death and whether the delay in providing treatment contributed, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) stated today.


BIRD Director Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei received a telephone call this morning from an eyewitness who shares Abbas’ cell, who stated that Abbas collapsed after getting up to use the bathroom at approximately 12:00am this morning. However, he reported that guards took 45 minutes to respond to their requests for an ambulance and he was not transferred to hospital until 1:30am. BIRD understands that Abbas’ cell is equipped with a CCTV camera, which may be able to confirm their account of events.


Abbas’ cellmate added that on-duty guards initially refused to respond without approval from a superior officer, further delaying Abbas’ medical treatment and raising concerns that the delays contributed to his premature death. The following morning, prison authorities also attempted to compel Abbas’ cellmates to sign a statement absolving the prison of responsibility for his death, which they refused to do. Videos posted on social media confirm that Abbas’ family have received his body; he leaves behind a wife and three young children.


The eyewitness also complained that their cell is severely overcrowded, with 17 men sharing a cell designed for 10 people and seven inmates forced to sleep on the floor. He noted that Abbas had spent two years in an isolation building, during which time he developed several serious medical conditions including heart problems, stomach ulcers and issues with his colon, for which he received no treatment. In 2019, his son, who was just 9 years old at the time, released a video message stating that his father was on hunger strike after being placed in isolation.


Concerns over the circumstances of Abbas’ death come as Jau Prison struggles with a severe coronavirus outbreak that has threatened to spiral out of control. While official reports note just three infections, local activists report figures of over 70; BIRD has independently confirmed at least 28 cases within Building 21 of the prison, with new infections reported daily.


The failure to contain the outbreak and authorities attempts to play down its severity have sparked protests across Bahrain, with demonstrations reported in at least 28 towns and vilalges across the country over the weekend. Dozens of protesters were summoned for questioning this morning, with at least three arrested and ordered to present themselves to the Public Prosecutor.


Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), commented: Over the past decade, Abbas Hassan Ali has been shot by police at close range, subjected to brutal torture, handed a 15 years prison term after an unfair trial and suffered from medical negligence leading to serious health problems. Authorities must order an immediate and independent investigation into Abbas’ death to determine whether delays to his treatment contributed to his death.”

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