Profile in Persecution: Muntadhar Abdali Khatam

Muntadhar Abdali Khatam was a 21-year-old Bahraini who was warrantlessly arrested in 2015 and subjected to multiple human rights violations, including torture and unfair trial. He was charged in multiple cases and is currently serving his sentence at Jau Prison.

Muntadhar is the twin brother of the detainee Murtadha Abdali Khatam, and the brother of Mohamad, who was imprisoned on charges similar to those of Murtadha, including illegal assembly. Muntadhar was arrested for the first time on 22 October 2012 when he was only 16 years old. Riot police arrested him from the roof of the neighbors’ house while he was playing with their children. Muntadhar did not receive any previous summons and was surprised that they came to arrest him. While taking him out of the house, the security agents threatened to shoot the owners of the house if they kept screaming. When they asked where Muntadhar was being taken, the forces said they were taking him to the CID, but did not state the reason for the arrest. Muntadhar was denied access to a lawyer and was not appointed one. He was sentenced to one year in prison for taking part in demonstrations calling for the overthrow of the regime. He was released on 5 July 2013.

On 5 April 2015, Muntadhar went out with his friends and twin brother Murtadha to buy dinner when security force cars surrounded them. They escaped without knowing where they were going, but security officers and riot police pursued them and arrested them near their grandfather’s house. When Muntadhar’s mother heard about the pursuit, she went to the place where Muntadhar, his brother Murtadha, and his friends were surrounded, along with other mothers of her son’s friends who were with him. The mothers tried to stop the security forces from arresting their children for several hours, but ultimately failed to do so. As the security officers left, they continued to throw sound bombs and tear gas to disperse the mothers. The authorities did not state the reason for the arrest, nor did they present an arrest warrant.

Muntadhar called his parents on the same day of the arrest after arriving at the CID and informed them of his location, but was unable to state the reason for his arrest. Muntadhar later told his family of the charges against him after he had been forced to do so. He was charged in four cases, including illegal assembly, assault on security personnel, wounding a security officer, and blocking roads with tires. The cases were presented to him already prepared at the CID. During his interrogation at the CID, which lasted three days without the presence of his lawyer, he was subjected to physical and psychological torture. He was severely beaten and threatened with electrocution and sexual assault if he did not confess to the charges. Muntadhar confessed due to the severe beating and, after his confession, he was transferred to the Public Prosecution and then to Dry Dock detention center. His mother was able to visit him and his brother and sit with them both together two weeks after their transfer to Dry Dock.

Muntadhar did not have a lawyer and was not appointed one by the court. He was sentenced to one year in prison for illegal assembly, five years for assaulting a security officer – which became three years after appeal – seven years for wounding a security officer, and three years for blocking roads with tires, making the total of his sentences 14 years.

Muntadhar’s warrantless arrest, torture and unfair trial are clear violations of the Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), both of which Bahrain is party to. As such, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities respect its human rights obligations and immediately release Muntadhar, who was denied a fair trial and due process rights and to investigate the allegations of torture and ill treatment in prison in order to hold the perpetrators accountable.