Profile in Persecution: Sami Jaafar Abbas AlShaikh

Sami Jaafar Abbas AlShaikh was a 21-year-old university student and accountant when he was first arrested by authorities during an ambush in Ma’ameer in January 2019 and again in December 2019. In both cases, Sami’s convictions were based upon weak evidence and false confessions extracted through torture. Since his arrests, Sami’s health has greatly deteriorated due to his contraction of COVID-19 and subsequent medical negligence on behalf of prison authorities. He is currently held in Jau Prison.

On 29 January 2019, officers in civilian clothing and riot police surrounded and arrested Sami in the Ma’ameer industrial area without presenting an arrest warrant nor giving a reason for the arrest. From the moment of his arrest, officers beat and tortured Sami, passing by the fire station, the civil defense building, and finally reaching the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). Sami arrived at the CID almost completely naked as his clothes had been torn from all the beating he was subjected to.

For the first two days of his arrest, Sami was disappeared as authorities refused to disclose his location to his family and he was unable to contact them. For 14 days after his arrest, CID officers interrogated Sami without a lawyer and tortured him to extract a confession. The officers punched him, beat and kicked him in sensitive areas, forced him to stand for long periods of time, and threatened to assault his wife if he denied the charges made against him before the Public Prosecution Office (PPO). Sami confessed to the charges when officers threatened to bring in his wife.

Sami was only able to meet his family around one month after his arrest and on 14 April 2019, he was charged with harboring individuals who are wanted in political cases and was sentenced to one year in prison. However, he was released before completing his sentence, on 15 May 2019, as the execution of the judgment was suspended.

Almost seven months later, on 4 December 2019 at 2:00 p.m., Sami received a summon accusing him of being a fugitive and notifying him that he has a court hearing on the same day at 10:00 a.m., which he missed as the summon arrived too late. He later received another summon to attend a court hearing on 15 December 2019. During the hearing, Sami was charged with 1) arson, 2) illegal assembly and use of violence, and 3) possession of flammable canisters (Molotov cocktails). On that day, the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs issued an arrest warrant and Sami was taken to pre-trial detention directly from court. Around two months later, he was convicted and sentenced to three years in Jau Prison despite the fact that the detainee who gave Sami’s name up revealed that he was pressured by the authorities to do so and despite the fact that Sami presented a medical certificate proving that at the time of the alleged crimes, he was confined to the house due to a surgery he underwent after a ligament injury. Sami was able to meet with his family 14 days after his second arrest.

On 23 March 2021, Sami’s wife received a phone call from a public health employee informing her that Sami tested positive for COVID-19 and, seemingly unaware that he was a prisoner, asked her about the people with whom he had contact. The employee hung up the phone as soon as she informed him that Sami is a prisoner. Following this news, Sami’s wife repeatedly called the prison administration to check up on her husband; however, the employee first denied the news of his infection and then told her that if he was dead, the Health Ministry would call her and tell her he is dead. Following that, the administration stopped answering the family’s calls and they were only able to track whether Sami was still infected through the Ministry of Health online service.

Sami’s family was first able to call him five days after finding out about his infection, for four minutes and under surveillance. He informed them that he was taken to medical isolation where he shares a cell with seven other prisoners, the only medicine they receive is Panadol,  and they are not allowed to go out to the yard and have to stay in their room for 24 hours a day. Before the COVID-19 outbreak inside Jau Prison, prisoners were not provided with any masks or sanitary products other than soap. On 6 April 2021, Sami called his family and told them that because the police station had lost his bank card, his clothes had not been changed for over a week as he could not buy new ones.

During another call on 16 April 2021, Sami informed his family that his clothes had still not been changed, which means that at the time, he had been in the same clothes for 26 consecutive days. Sami has reportedly started to develop signs of skin allergies and disease. On the last call they had with him, on 23 April 2021, Sami told his family that for the last 24 hours, air conditioning in his cell had been so weak that he was having trouble breathing and that, despite complaining to an officer, no action had yet been taken in this regard. Although Sami has been given a new bank card, as of 30 April, he still has not received clean clothing.

The Bahraini authorities’ actions against Sami, from his arrests, his torture and coerced confession to his deprivation of a fair trial, as well as lack of proper medical and hygienic care in prison, all constitute violations of Bahrain’s obligations under international law, namely the Convention Against Torture (CAT), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). ADHRB calls upon the Bahraini authorities to drop all convictions through unfair trial, grant Sami a retrial respecting international judicial and evidentiary standards, and investigate claims of torture and inhumane treatment and hold prison officials accountable. Furthermore, ADHRB urges the authorities to provide Sami with adequate medical and health care and to respect basic standards of hygiene and sanitation.