2017: Torture, Threats and Extortion, Activists & HR Defenders inside the NSA Death Chambers

2018-01-07 - 5:35 am

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Human rights defenders and activists experienced a brutal period during 2017; torture, extortion, travel bans and attacks on homes and properties, as well as pressures and threats aimed at turning activists and rights defenders- some of whom who were detained-into informants.

On May 21, US President Donald Trump met with the King of Bahrain and assured him of the improved relationship with the United States. A couple of days later, the Bahraini authorities launched a violent security raid on a peaceful sit-in in the village of Diraz, leaving five protesters killed and arresting nearly 400 others. In the following days, the authorities launched a massive campaign against activists and rights human rights defenders.

The vehicles of three activists were mysteriously set on fire: Sayed Salman Al-Mahfoudh, former head of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), Khalil Al-Marzouq, political assistant to the secretary-general of the largest opposition party in Bahrain, Al-Wefaq, which was dissolved by a very controversial court verdict, and rights activist Ebtisam Al-Sayegh following a media campaign launched against her.

Targeting the families of political and human rights activists was another form of pressure practiced against them. The mother-in-law and brother-in-law of London-based human rights activist, Ahmed Al-Wadaie, were arrested over their alleged involvement in activities that go under the Terrorism Act. The fathers of activist Yousuf Al-Houri, who resides in Germany, and Isa Al-'Ali, who lives in the UK, were also summoned after the activists planned to hold a sit-in protesting the King's attendance at a horse race in the British city of Windsor.

The National Security Agency (NSA), specifically the third floor of the Muharraq police station, was the champion of torture incidents throughout 2017. About 40 human rights defenders and political activists were summoned for interrogation there. They were tortured and threatened to be killed unless they quit their rights activities and were bluntly offered to work for the agency.
Some activists remained silent in order to avoid being exposed to more harassment, others chose to back down quietly, while others decided to reveal the torture and intimidation they had been subjected to.

Ibrahim Sarhan

"You have to forget the law and human rights. The US president has changed and the situation has changed, and the US president got what he wanted. From now on, we will do to you whatever we please," this is what the National Security Agency told legal counsel Ibrahim Sarhan during his interrogation on May 23 and 31.

Sarhan, who was a legal adviser to the Al-Wefaq Society before its dissolution, later published a statement detailing the torture, beatings, insults, harassment, electrocution and rape threats to which he was subjected, following comments he gave "Al-Mayadeen" news channel on May 22.

Ebtisam Al-Sayegh

Human rights activist Ebtisam Al-Sayegh was repeatedly interrogated for four times in 2017, most recently she was summoned to the same torture building on May 26, i.e. days after Trump's meeting with the king of Bahrain. The situation was different this latest time, as Ebtisam came out after 8 hours of interrogation experiencing a physical and nervous breakdown and was immediately transferred to the hospital. She revealed days later that she was subjected to humiliating and degrading torture, sexually harassed by interrogators, verbally abused and threatened with rape unless she put an end to her human rights activities. "No organization in the world can rescue you or any activists. We will pursue them one by one," Al-Sayegh was told during her interrogation.

About a month later, civilian forces raided her home on July 4th at dawn to take her into custody. Al-Sayegh was sentenced to six months in prison pending investigation under the Anti-Terrorism Act, before being released on October 22 after extensive international and HR pressures. Al-Sayegh suffered from a broken arm as a result of torture and lost 11 kilos of her weight during her imprisonment.

Yousuf Al-Jamri

On August 3, the Bahraini tweeter Yousuf Al-Jamri posted a videotaped message addressing the King of Bahrain, asking him for protection from the NSA, noting that NSA officers threatened to rape him and attacked the Shiite faith, to which he belongs to, with derogatory terms during his interrogation on August 1st and 2nd over his activities on social media.

In the video that Al-Jamri published on his account, he accused the National Security Agency of torturing him, threatening him with death, sexual assault and reprisals against his family, as well as insulting him, his family and faith. "I have been tortured. The interrogator said that he is acting in accordance with the higher authority after your majesty and nothing can stop him," he said to the King in his message. "My life is in danger and I hope you will issue orders to open an urgent investigation to ensure my safety and the safety of all the members of my family and my mother," he added.

On July 20, Al-Jamri published a series of tweets including the United Kingdom's criticism of the human rights situation in Bahrain, which was listed in the Human Rights and Democracy Report of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Radhi Al-Qatari

On July 19, human rights authorities arrested human rights activist Radhi Al-Qatari after raiding his home. He was subjected to severe torture and ill-treatment for two full months during interrogations. He was then transferred to Dry Dock Prison (Pretrial Detention) on August 2nd, detained for six months pending investigation under the Anti-Terrorism Act. He was released with both Ebtisam Al-Sayegh and rights defender Mohammed Khalil Al-Shakhouri (arrested on July 4th) on October 26.

Nabeel Rajab

On July 10, Nabeel Rajab, Bahrain's leading human rights activist and head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was sentenced to two years in prison after having been tried in a case over television interviews conducted in 2015 and 2016 that the authorities claimed "undermined the prestige of the state."

Rajab's latest arrest was made on June 13, 2016, during which he was treated in a degrading manner and subjected to deliberate harassment and humiliation.

Death Chambers

Three human rights organizations (The Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights) issued an extensive report on the violations of the Bahraini National Security Agency in August, entitled, "Death Chambers": A report documenting the violations of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Bahrain.

Arabic Version


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