Ahmed AlArab, 27, and Ali AlArab, 25, are two cousins respectively facing life imprisonment and the death penalty in Bahrain. They were arbitrarily detained and tortured over allegations stemming from the escape of a group of individuals from Jau Prison on 1 January 2017, and various other criminal charges.
Ahmed –the subject of a previous Profile in Persecution – has been repeatedly detained over his peaceful political activism. On 14 February 2012, Ahmed, who was then a successful 22-year-old nursing student, was arrested during peaceful demonstrations held in commemoration of the 2011 Bahraini uprising. He was released two days later. The forces who conducted the arrest then harassed him during the following year. On 9 January 2014, security forces arrested him again at a friend’s house in Hamad Town, and alleged that he possessed a firearm. The authorities subsequently tortured him for 21 days at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) and elicited a false confession.
In addition to suffering torture at the hands of Bahraini officers, Ahmed’s due process and fair trial rights were also violated. He was tried and sentenced to life in prison in absentia, despite the fact that he was held in police custody during the trial. He remained in Jau Prison until 1 January 2017, when he escaped. In March 2017, he was located, arrested again, and returned to Jau.
On 31 January 2018, Ahmed was again tried and sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment and stripped of his nationality. He was sentenced in a collective judgment involving 60 other defendants, including his cousin Ali AlArab. None of the defendants were allowed to attend the final hearing, nor were they permitted to meet with their lawyers during the trial. Additionally, the judge refused defense attorneys’ requests to produce video surveillance footage that could have served their defense.
Ali AlArab was detained on 9 February 2017 by security agents of the Ministry of Interior, who did not present a warrant, at the home of an acquaintance in the village of Barbar. On the day of his arrest, officers took him to the CID, where he was held until 7 March 2017. During this time they coerced him into signing a confession while blindfolded. On 7 March, officers transferred Ali to Dry Dock Detention Center. He arrived there bearing clear signs of torture, including having all of his toenails removed. On the same day that he arrived at Dry Dock, the guards beat him for refusing to kiss one of the guards’ boots. He was unable to stand at all, even to pray, for the next day. After the beating he was taken to the prison clinic in a wheelchair.
In the mass trial on 31 January 2018, Ali was sentenced to death for allegedly assisting in the 1 January 2017 escape from Jau Prison. In addition to the charges relating to the prison break, Ali was also charged with killing a security officer on 29 January 2017, firing on a security patrol and injuring one of its officers on 14 January 2017, and possessing firearms. Ali was additionally stripped of his Bahraini nationality. As is the case with the other defendants, at no time during his detention was he allowed to meet with his attorney, and he was obliged to change lawyers because they feared reprisals.
Ali was transferred to Jau Prison on 2 February 2018, where the guards beat him upon arrival. In early February, he was arbitrarily placed in solitary confinement, tortured for six consecutive hours, and taken to an unknown location, presumably in order for him to be further subjected to abuse.
On 28 January 2019, the Bahraini High Court of Appeals confirmed Ali’s death sentence and Ahmed’s life term. On 6 May 2019 the Court of Cassation, Bahrain’s highest court, upheld both sentences. Ali is one of eight men currently at imminent risk of execution in Bahrain.
Bahrain’s actions violate several norms of international law by which it is bound, including the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
ADHRB calls upon Bahrain to abide by its international obligations by annulling Ahmed and Ali’s convictions based on proceedings conducted in violation of the right to a fair trial, and to ensure that any future criminal proceedings brought against them are in conformity with international norms and standards. We also urge the authorities to investigate allegations of ill-treatment and torture by authorities in Bahraini prisons, and hold those authorities accountable.
Editor’s note: This piece was edited on 15 May 2019 to correct an error. ADHRB previously stated the date of Ali AlArab’s arrest as 9 February 2018, when the correct date is 9 February 2017.
Additional information concerning the appeals process was included on 15 May 2019 as well.