Bahrain

HRW, BIRD: 13 Inmates in Bahrain Convicted in Unfair Mass Trial

Human Rights Watch and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemned on Wednesday (December 6, 2023) the verdict issued by Bahrain’s First Criminal Court in September 2023, against 13 defendants in “an unfair mass trial marred with due process violations and torture allegations.” HWR and BIRD demanded to assess the defendants’ torture allegations.

BIRD and Human Rights Watch analyzed over 3,000 pages of court documents to assess the defendants’ torture allegations, after their arrest of protesting against the death of inmate Abbas Malullah on April 6, 2021 in Jaw Central Prison due to medical negligence. Abbas was jailed for his participation in the 2011 pro-democracy protests. Bahrain’s First Criminal Court found 13 defendants guilty on charges of using force against prison guards and vandalism of prison property. The other 52 defendants were acquitted.

Hasan Ali Al-Shwaikh, one of the 13 people convicted, said in a hand-written account submitted to the court that, “Inmates in my [locked] cell told the police to stop beating the inmates because they were demanding their rights. At the time, we were surprised that the riot police came and opened the door of our cell and threw five sound grenades inside the cell, and then they entered, and pepper sprayed us.”

Saeed Abdel Imam Helal, an inmate assaulted by prison guards, described the beatings in an interview with the Public Prosecution Office on April 25, 2023. Based on the transcripts from the interview, he said, “police came [into the cell] and beat me with batons above my left eye and I fell on the ground and lost consciousness. When I woke up at the prison clinic … they informed me that I had a broken bone above my left eye.”

Sayed Alawi Al-Wadaei said in a hand-written testimony submitted to the court on July 25, 2023: “[prison guards] severely beat us with sticks and dragged us outside [the cell] … they insulted us and our religion, spitting in our faces and one of them put his shoe in my mouth.”

The majority of prisoners charged in the trial detailed abuses during an April 17 transfer to another prison building, known as Building 15.

According to an investigation by Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), prison authorities had denied Malallah adequate health care and delayed providing him medical attention after he became unconscious in his cell the night of his death.

HRW and BIRD confirmed that “The trial was marred by due process violations. During the first two hearings and on the day of the verdict, none of the 62 inmates held at Jaw Prison were brought to court, violating the defendants’ right to attend their own hearings. In its final judgment, the court relied solely on 2021 interviews by the Public Prosecution Office and denied defense lawyers’ request to cross examine the officers who allegedly abused the inmates.”

The appellate court is scheduled to hear an appeal on December 10, 2023, during which it should credibly investigate the defendants’ allegations of torture, which the lower court did not properly investigate.

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