ADHRB Exclusive Interview with Amina al-Maidan

During the week of 19 January, Amina al-Maidan, the mother of a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Bahrain, visited the U.S. to discuss her son Tagi’s case, during which time ADHRB conducted an exclusive interview with Amina al-Maidan.

Tell me about your son; he was born in the United States?

My son, Tagi al-Maidan, is 26 years old and an American citizen. He was born in Connecticut, where we lived for about 4 years while my husband attended Yale University. After my husband graduated, we moved to Saudi Arabia and then to Bahrain. We had a very good life in Bahrain, with a very loving family. Most of my family worked as police officers. My son recently graduated from school in Bahrain and began looking for a job.

Tagi was very proud of his American citizenship and always wanted to give something back to America. He applied for jobs at the United States Embassy, as well as in the Navy, but he never found a job.

Can you tell me about your son’s arrest?

As you know, in 2011, there were political problems in Bahrain. We lived very close to the Pearl Roundabout, which was the center of protests against the government. However, I never thought that the government would target my family. I have many relatives who are in the security forces. I would see people getting arrested, but Tagi never went to a protest, so I did not think he would be targeted.

One night, at 2:30 in the morning, I heard my door open. As I woke, masked men entered my home and asked where my children were. They told me that they were looking for my son Tagi.

I didn’t want to fight with them. I knew that my family had nothing to hide, so I told them that my son was sleeping in his room, along with his three brothers.

They opened his door, and the men asked “which of you is Tagi.” After he identified himself Tagi was handcuffed and taken out the door. The officers never showed me an arrest warrant. I had a terrible feeling; it seemed like a nightmare. I told the men to be careful, that Tagi is an American citizen, but the men only said to come to the police station the next day.

I thought it would be easy to get Tagi out. After all, he is an American citizen. His older brother and I went to four police stations that morning but nobody could tell us where Tagi was or why he had been arrested. I became very frightened; I had heard stories of people being taken in the night and not returning.

Eventually, my other son called the U.S. Embassy for help, but the Embassy said they could not help until Monday, as Tagi was arrested during the weekend.

When Tagi finally called me, more than a day later, he told me what happened to him after his arrest. He was blindfolded, forced to stand on one leg for an extended period of time, and denied water or access to a bathroom.

He was tortured by several men who tried to force Tagi to admit to participating in protests and to attacking police officers. Despite the torture, Tagi denied the allegations. Then the men claimed that they would kidnap me, too, and that is when Tagi agreed to make a false confession. They told him to write down that he threw a rock at a police vehicle. That was all that Tagi ever confessed to.

After 60 days at the Dry Dock Detention Center, Tagi’s detention was extended for an additional 60 days. And this went on. He remained in prison for a year and a half, and became very sick. Before he was arrested, Tagi suffered from stomach ulcers, for which he was prescribed daily medication and a special diet. I tried to convince the prison authorities to provide Tagi with this treatment, but they refused.

I pleaded with the American Embassy, but they could do nothing to help. They kept telling me that they would speak to someone, but nothing came from this.

In detention, Tagi was forced to sleep on the floor. I could see that my son’s back was misshapen from this. He lost 15 kilos (33 pounds). Instead of addressing his needs, prison authorities took Tagi to a prison psychiatrist, who prescribed him sleeping medications. Tagi doesn’t need sleeping pills, he needs his ulcer medication. It seemed like they were just trying to silence him and make him seem crazy.

Then Tagi was sentenced.

He was convicted of assaulting a police officer, based on the false confession that he had been forced to give. The court claimed that there was proof that my son was at the protest, a video, photos, and an eye witness. I told the prosecution that I wanted to see the video of Tagi at the protest. I thought that maybe they made a mistake; that someone who looked like Tagi attacked the police, and once I showed them that this wasn’t my son they would let him go. I was then told that no video or photos existed.

The only evidence they had against Tagi was the testimony of one individual, a police lieutenant. After some research, we found that this one officer has testified against more than 500 people. It’s impossible that this man witnessed all these crimes.

My son’s spirits are very low. I am the only one fighting for him. Even American officials seem powerless to help me. They told me that they have diplomatic interests in Bahrain, but I just wanted my son back. I didn’t care about the politics.

What is your message to the U.S. Government?

Click here for a video of this message.

Mr. Obama, I sent you a letter concerning my son’s arrest. It has been almost two and a half years and nothing has been done. Please do something to help him. He is innocent.

What is your message to American mothers?

Don’t give up on your kids, wherever they are. If they are going to another country to study or work, always have information on whether they are safe. Always give them advice to be far away from areas of trouble, and be conscious of their surroundings. You never know what could happen.

What is your message to the American people?

Click here for a video of this message.

Care more about American citizens abroad. They are everywhere, not just in the USA. Do something to make sure that Americans in danger are not forgotten.

What is your message to the U.S. Congress?

Take this issue seriously. Don’t tell me that you are working on it. That’s not enough. Please get my son out of jail.

What would you like to say to your son, Tagi?

Click here for a video of this message.

When I left Bahrain, I left with your t shirt, your luggage, and your clothes. Next time I will bring you.