Profiles in Persecution: Mohamed Ahmed Abdulla Ali Abdulla Serhan

Mohamed Ahmed Abdulla Ali Abdulla Serhan was a 38 year-old teacher at the Ministry of Education in Bahrain when he was arrested in May 2013. Sentenced for 23 years, Mohamed was subjected to torture and enforced disappearance before he was unfairly tried on the basis of political charges. Mohamed is one of the five people currently in the isolation building of Jau prison, where they’re constantly subjected to torture and restricted from practicing their religious freedom.

Mohamed was arrested on 11 May 2013 by officers in civilian clothing, police forces, as well as the special Security Force Command when the entire town of Sanad was surrounded by helicopters. Mohamed was blindfolded and taken out of a building that had a number of people wanted for political cases, without a warrant.

On 12 May 2013, one day after his arrest, Mohamed was able to contact his family and inform them that he was at Alwosta police station. Consequently, his family continuously tried to go down to the station to see their son; however, the officers denied any knowledge of Mohamed and his whereabouts. Following the arrest, Mohamed disappeared for three weeks, after which he was able to call his family and inform them that he was at the Criminal Investigations Directorate, where he was interrogated. He was denied access to a lawyer, did not have the adequate time and facilities to prepare for his trial, and was not able to present nor challenge evidence presented against him.

During the period of interrogation, which lasted approximately 10 days, Mohamed was subjected to severe forms of physical and psychological torture, as well as discrimination and ill-treatment. He was beaten, forced to stand for long periods of time, and electrocuted all over his body, and more specifically on his ear and back. Mohamed was also threatened and discriminated against based on his religious sect. He was also forced to endure other violations of human rights, but could not disclose them due to the lack of privacy, all in an attempt to get a confession out of him. Despite his deteriorating health, he was consistently beaten and tortured.

Mohamed suffers from spinal disc herniation, which leads to pain in the arms and legs, as well as weakening of the body. The continuous beatings, as well as the terrible prison conditions further deteriorated his physical and mental health. Additionally, and due to the severe electrocution, Mohamed’s hearing is retracting, and he constantly suffers from headaches and back pains. His family filed a complaint to the Mol Ombudsman against the religious discrimination Mohamed is subjected to in prison, as well as the continuous threats by the prison administration. During Ashura 2020, another complaint was filed against the prison administration for restricting Mohamed and his inmates from practicing Ashura rituals and attending religious ceremonies, but to no avail.

Mohamed was sentenced to 23 years in prison for (1) covering up for a cleric, as the latter was initially covering up for a group of people wanted for political cases, (2) covering up for a group of people who were also wanted on political cases, and on 30 October 2017, Bahraini’s Fourth High Criminal Court found Mohamed guilty of (3) being part of “Al Basta Group”[1]. For the former, Mohamed was sentenced to 8 years in prison, and for the latter, 10 years and denaturalization. On 7 March 2018, the first verdict was upheld by the High Appeals Court; however, on 20 April, 2019, Mohamed got his nationality restored by a decision from the King, as part of the group of people mentioned in the royal order. On 6 May 2019, the first verdict for the second case was also upheld by the Court of Cassation.

On 10 July 2020, Mohamed and some of his inmates in Jau Prison Buildings 13 and 14 went on a contact strike, refusing to contact their families, in protest to the horrible prison conditions [2]. On 9 August 2020, Mohamed, alongside five other prisoners, began their hunger strike, urgently demanding greater religious freedom, particularly in regards to Ashura. On 10 August 2020, Mohamed and the 5 other prisoners were transferred to Building 15 as a form of punishment for allegedly mobilizing and enticing inmates to go on strike. They were all separated and put in cells with other non-Bahraini inmates, in an attempt to restrict them from conducting their Muharram or Ashura rites together. ADHRB received information from inside the prison that Mohamed, alongside the other four inmates still in isolation to this day, are experiencing physical and psychological torture, as well as death threats and threats of putting poison in their food.

Religious freedom is a right guaranteed by international law, namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The use of torture during Mahdi’s interrogation violates both Bahraini law and Bahrain’s obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) under International law. Mahdi’s arbitrary detention and unfair trial also violates Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bahrain acceded in 2006.

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls upon the Bahraini authorities to abide by their international human rights obligations in protecting and promoting human rights. ADHRB urges the Bahraini government to investigate allegations of torture and other human rights violations, particularly with regards to Mohamed’s case, in order to hold perpetrators accountable. We ask authorities to disclose information about Mohamed’s isolation to his family, and preserve a fair trial.

[1] The Bahraini authorities consider the “Al-Basta Group” to be a group affiliated with the “Islamic Wafa Movement”, which is classified as a terrorist group in Bahrain. They also hold it responsible for inciting Bahrainis against the ruling regime and spreading malicious propaganda, calling for the overthrow of the ruling regime.

[2] Their demands included stopping the use of severe handcuffing when taking inmates to the prison clinic, seizing the harassment of prisoners during calls and guaranteeing their right to kick, allowing prisoners to practice religious rituals at the documented, and providing personal hygiene products at the canteen in light of the Coronavirus outbreak