Profile in Persecution: Sheikh Abduljalil Radhi Maki (Al-Muqdad)

Sheikh Abduljalil Al-Muqdad is a prominent 62-year-old Bahraini religious cleric and political activist who has been serving a life sentence at Jau Prison since 2011, when he was warrantlessly and violently arrested in relation to pro-democracy demonstrations in the country.

On 27 March 2011, security officers who did not identify themselves raided Sheikh Abduljalil’s house at 3 a.m., raising their weapons at him. They took him from his room, threatened him and tied his hands behind his back in the hall of the house while they searched it. The officers did not present the arrest and search warrants. Next, they took him outside barefoot despite a pain in his left foot due to an injury. Sheikh Abduljalil was placed in the car, blindfolded, and taken to an unknown location.

When he was taken out of the car he was slapped and then officers interrogated him late into the night. In the morning, they brought him to Al-Qurain Prison. He was not permitted to contact a lawyer, and was only allowed to call his family for new clothes.

At the prison and during interrogation, officers brutally tortured Sheikh Abduljalil. They beat him, insulted him, put him on the ground, and whipped him with a leather belt or a sole after they poured water on him. One of the officers forced him to open his mouth, spat in it, and forced him to swallow. These  violations continued at the Military Prosecution, where officers blindfolded him and punched him in the head. At the National Security Agency, officers also verbally abused Sheikh Abduljalil, blindfolded and sexually assaulted him, and insulted him, his family, and his religious sect.

On 22 June 2011, the National Safety Court sentenced Sheikh Abduljalil to life imprisonment for attempting to overthrow the regime. Both the military and civilian Courts of Appeal upheld the sentence on 28 September 2011 and on 4 September 2012, respectively.

During imprisonment, officers continued their abuse, mainly through intentional medical negligence. Sheikh Abduljalil, still suffering from pain in his leg, has also been forced to endure back pain and has not received serious treatment or obtained an accurate diagnosis despite constant demands. Furthermore, Sheikh Abduljalil has suffered from severe and persistent headaches which also have gone untreated.

Recently, in September 2022, Sheikh Abduljalil was transferred to an external medical facility in a vehicle that was not equipped with air conditioning despite the extreme temperature at the time. He suffered from a headache, had difficulty breathing, and feared that he would lose consciousness.

On 27 September 2022, Sheikh Abduljalil was due to be transferred again from Jau Prison for an external medical appointment. However, just before the appointment, an officer informed him that a doctor will not be present. Consequently, Sheikh Abduljalil refused to go to the appointment. Officers told him that he had to sign a statement declaring that he is rejecting medical treatment, something which Sheikh Abduljalil refused to do. His refusal was met with an aggressive response from some officers who verbally assaulted him; approximately 4 to 5 officers attempted to beat him but were stopped by other officers.

When this incident was publicized, with supporters inside and outside prison expressing solidarity with Sheikh Abduljalil, authorities sought revenge against Sheikh Abduljalil instead of launching impartial investigations to hold the officers accountable. Sheikh Abduljalil was taken to the Public Prosecution office to be questioned as the assailant rather than the victim. A wooden board he usually sleeps on to alleviate pain was also taken away as a form of reprisal.

The medical negligence and abuse that Sheikh Abduljalil has endured during imprisonment represent a violation of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners upheld by the United Nations. Furthermore, Bahrain has also violated international treaties which the country has ratified, including the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which stipulate that prisoners be treated with dignity. Finally, Sheikh Abduljalil’s initial arrest and imprisonment in connection to his political activism, alongside the violations he suffered during interrogation and trial under military court, render him arbitrarily detained.

Under these circumstances, ADHRB calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Sheikh Abduljalil and other political prisoners. Furthermore, ADHRB urges the authorities to provide proper medical treatment and sanitary conditions in prison, in addition to effectively investigating incidents of mistreatment and reprisal.