This week, September 26, Bahrain’s First High Criminal Court issued its verdict against 65 defendants, 62 of whom are political prisoners held in Jau Prison, two are held at Dry Dock Prison, and one is out of prison serving a non-custodial sentence on political charges.
The Court convicted 12 defendants to three years in prison and one defendant to a year in prison on charges that included causing unrest in the prison and resisting prison police orders. 52 defendants were acquitted.
During the sentencing, none of the defendants were brought to the court, and the trial was marred by severe due process violations, including the right to attend the trial or meet with a lawyer.
The Court failed to investigate allegations of torture against inmates by prison officials and instead resorted to punishing political prisoners for their protests.
The individuals were subjected to severe human rights violations. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) has obtained first-hand accounts from seven inmates attacked, which provide significant updates and details regarding the abuse they were subject to.
The incident involves 65 political prisoners who staged a sit-in protest at Jau prison in April 2021 after the death of political prisoner Abbas Malallah as a result of medical negligence. Ten days into the sit-in, on April 17 2021, special forces and officers at Jau Prison used excessive force against inmates, and subjected many of them to torture in what became known as “the bloody Saturday attack”.
Inmates have detailed consistent allegations of physical and psychological torture, abuse, ill-treatment, and medical negligence. This reflects the treatment of the over 60 inmates who were subjected to severe abuse and held incommunicado for between 30 and 36 days.
These accounts were corroborated by an official record when the public prosecution office interviewed the inmates.
Several of the testimonies accuse Officer Ahmed Farhan, an officer of Syrian origin, of beating prisoners on their heads with iron objects and pepper spray canisters until they bled and insulting prisoners with verbal abuses based on their Shia faith, saying to one of the prisoners “I will crush them, I will crush all the Shiites.”
Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, Director of Advocacy, at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, commented in response to the verdict:
“This mass trial demonstrates a core problem in Bahrain’s corrupt judicial system where prisoners of state violence and victims of torture are condemned while torturers avoid any accountability.
This is why Bahrain will not allow international investigators such as the UN Special Rapporteur on torture because of the systematic use of torture in its prisons.”
Bahrain government official record on the notes made by the public prosecution office when they interviewed prisoners (extracts can be made available):
Ali Mahdi Hassan Saeed
I proceeded to the bus, where a police officer named Ahmed Fareeh [Farhan] struck me on the head approximately six times with an iron object, resulting in a wound on my forehead that started bleeding. He also struck me several times in different areas of my body, and I was subsequently transferred to Building 15.
Sadiq Jaafar Ali
While I was in the room, the police came in, immediately handcuffed me, and assaulted me by hitting me all over my body with their hands and feet as they escorted me through the corridor. I do not know exactly who attacked me as they were wearing masks. Then, I was taken to one of the buses outside, where a police officer named Ahmed Farhan assaulted me by hitting me with his hand and a canister of pepper spray on my head. Afterwards, I was transferred to Building 15, where I have remained until today.
Mahmoud Abdulreda Hassan
Ahmed Farhan struck me on the head with an iron tool as I entered the bus. He verbally abused me, saying, “I will crush them, I will crush all the Shiites.” When we entered the bus, he asked me to put my shoe inside my mouth, but I refused and kicked the shoe away. We were then taken to Building 15, Cell 1, Room 12. When I got off, the police officer hit me on the head again. I stayed there for two days with handcuffs on my hands.