Profile in Persecution: Sayed Mahmood Ali AlAlawi

Sayed Mahmood Ali AlAlawi was a 21-year-old student when Bahraini authorities warrantlessly arrested him from his house in Hawrat Sanad in September 2020. Since his detention, Sayed Mahmood has developed severe psychological problems which required his transfer to a psychiatric hospital, where he remains today, facing imprisonment for the second time in his life as he awaits the issuance of a judgement on his case.

Sayed Mahmood was arrested for the first time at the age of 15, on 29 July 2015 and was charged with 1) carrying explosives or weapons in a public place; 2) illegal gathering with the aim of committing crimes and disturbing security; 3) importing and possessing explosives, rifles or pistols without a license, and trading them; and 4) using explosives to endanger people’s lives and the possessions of others, in the fulfilment of a terrorist purpose. He was sentenced to seven years in prison on 20 December 2015 upon appeal. After serving four and a half years of his sentence, he was released within the framework of alternative sentencing on 17 December 2019, only to be arrested again less than a year later.

On 30 September 2020, officers in civilian clothing, accompanied by one officer dressed in security forces uniform, raided Sayed Mahmood’s family house in Hawrat Sanad at 10:30 pm. The officers warrantlessly arrested him from the roof of the neighbors’ house, failing to mention a reason for the arrest. They searched the entire house until around 12:30 am, seizing two cars registered in the name of Sayed Mahmood’s father, which they still have not returned.

On the same night, at 2:00 am, Sayed Mahmood called his family and informed them that he was at the CID. Following that call, contact with him was cut off for five consecutive days. Sayed Mahmood was interrogated without a lawyer for seven days, until 7 October 2020, when he was presented to the public prosecution without his lawyer. During that time, CID officers tortured Sayed Mahmood and extracted a forced confession from him. Sayed Mahmood reports that he was also taken to the City Center Mall to be filmed.

Sayed Mahmood has been charged with financing and joining a terrorist group and attempting to bomb the City Center Mall. As the court is still in effect, a judgement against him has not been issued yet, and the court session has been postponed to 11 January 2022. So far, Sayed Mahmood has not had access to his lawyer during court sessions, and he has not been allowed to present evidence, such as the full surveillance footage from City Center Mall, nor to challenge the evidence presented against him in court, including his forced confessions. Furthermore, edited and cropped surveillance footage was played in court, but it did not reveal the presence of explosives, incendiary balloons or any kind of weapons, nor did it appear that he carried or placed any objects as mentioned in the confessions or prosecution record. All that could be seen in the footage was a person wearing a mask, a hat and sunglasses, walking in the mall, not engaging in any suspicious activity.

Although Sayed Mahmood’s parents do not know the details of the interrogation, they suspect that it is connected to the deterioration of his psychological health. Before his arrest, Sayed Mahmood did not suffer from any mental problems. However, a couple of months after his arrest, on 5 February 2021, Sayed Mahmood was transferred by ambulance from AlQal’a clinic to the Emergency Department of the Salmaniya Medical Complex after refusing to eat, drink, or speak for 24 hours and exhibiting depressive symptoms. On 6 February 2021, he was admitted to the Psychiatric hospital of Bahrain in Salmaniya, Manama. During the last trial sessions, Sayed Mahmood’s lawyer requested his referral to a tripartite medical committee based on the recommendation of his treating physician, as he was experiencing convulsions and hallucinations, and despite taking his medications, his condition was not improving as required.

Sayed Mahmood’s parents have submitted several complaints to the Ombudsman and sent a letter to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) regarding Sayed Mahmood’s warrantless arrest, the confiscation of his father’s cars, the reasons behind the deterioration of his psychological health, and requesting to visit him at the psychiatric hospital. His family was finally given permission to meet with him on 4 November 2021 after being restricted to contact through calls for over a year.

Bahraini authorities’ treatment of Sayed Mahmood, from his arbitrary and warrantless arrest, denial of fair trial and due process rights, torture and ill-treatment leading to a severe and ongoing deterioration of his psychological health and mental well-being, and refusal to allow his parents to meet with him,  all constitute violations of Bahrain’s obligations under the Bahraini Constitution and under international treaties, namely the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Therefore, ADHRB urges authorities to immediately suspend Sayed Mahmood’s trial as it is based on fabricated charges and evidence as well as false confessions extracted under duress. Finally, ADHRB calls upon authorities to urgently investigate the circumstances which led to Sayed Mahmood’s mental setback with a view to holding the responsible officers accountable in addition to allowing his family to regularly meet with him and be informed about his condition.