Profile in Persecution: Abdullah Isa Abdulla Mahroos (Sheikh Mirza Mahroos)

Abdullah Isa Abdulla Mahroos is a Bahraini Shia religious figure known as Sheikh Mirza Mahroos who was arrested in 2011 for his political activism. He has been subjected to multiple human rights violations, including torture and unfair trial, and was charged in multiple cases. He is currently serving his sentence at Jau prison.

Sheikh Mahroos was first arrested in August 2010 after authorities had fabricated charges against him in what was known as “the Terrorist Cell case”. He was brutally tortured in Al-Qalaa prison by National Security Agency (NSA) officers. He was then transferred to Dry Dock prison where the torture continued for approximately six months. On 23 February 2011, he was released, only to be arrested 20 days later on the same fabricated charges for which the government could not find compelling evidence. On 17 March 2011, Sheikh Mahroos’s house was violently raided by the National Security Forces and forces from the Ministry of Interior, who smashed the doors and damaged some of the family’s belongings. During the raid, the forces ripped and threw family photos and books across the living room. They also confiscated money, personal documents, cellphones, and books.

On 1 April 2011, Sheikh Mahroos was arrested from his home by masked security forces from the Ministry of Interior without a search or arrest warrant. His hands were tied, his eyes covered, and he was beaten and kicked all over his body during the 30-minute drive to the National Security Agency (NSA) Headquarters in Al-Qalaa in Manama. Sheikh Mahroos was disappeared for a month, during which time he endured all forms torture and abuse. Once they arrived, Sheikh Mahroos was kept in the basement for six days, during which he was blindfolded and constantly guarded. Sheikh Mahroos was taken into an alley along with other detainees, where they were all tortured one by one. Four to five security officers beat Sheikh Mahroos with sticks and pipes all over his body. When he fainted multiple times from the pain, the security officers threw him to the ground and kicked him repeatedly. The security forces threatened to rape and kill Sheikh Mahroos. He was hung and beaten all over his body, and during this beating security officers tied his hands and stripped him naked. He was also sexually assaulted and forced to stand for several hours where he was beaten for moving. Sheikh Mahroos had difficulty sleeping due to the constant torture. Additionally, officers verbally abused him, insulting his religious beliefs.

Six days later, Sheikh Abdullah was transferred to a military prison in Bahrain. The officers lied to him and told him he would be sent to Saudi Arabia to be executed, so Sheikh Abdullah believed he was in Saudi Arabia for two months. Sheikh Mahroos was tortured again at the military prison. He was beaten with plastic pipes on his head and all over his body. Security forces threw cold water on him and on his head, turned the air conditioner to very cold temperatures and sometimes forced him to lie down in the swamp of water that formed in the cell.  Sheikh Abdullah was also forced to lie on the ground face down, during which time officers would then step on his face and his sides and make him kiss the shoes of all of the guards. Throughout the entire period of interrogation, his lawyer was not allowed to attend and he was completely cut off the outside world.

Sheikh Mahroos suffers from diabetes, and his condition worsened due to poor nutrition and mental stress from the military camp. Additionally, security officers stopped giving him his medication for a colon condition, which caused him internal bleeding. He also suffered from severe fatigue and headaches due to the torture and the security officers beat and threatened him whenever he asked for medicine. As a result of the torture, Sheikh Mahroos suffers from internal bleeding  caused by kicking and stepping on his stomach, excessive pain in the back and thighs from standing for long periods of time, dizziness and loss of balance from getting hit on the head repeatedly, poor eyesight and foggy vision due to being hit on his eye, and loss of feelings and numbness in his hands.

After some time in prison, Sheikh Abdullah was taken to the military prosecution and threatened with torture if he spoke of the treatment he underwent in prison. During the interrogation at the military prosecution, the investigator constantly yelled at Sheikh Abdullah and threatened him with execution. The investigator also accused him of several charges that were made up by the National Security Agency and forced him to sign the statement written by them.

After two months at the military prison, Sheikh Abdullah appeared before the National Safety Court, a hybrid military-civilian court. There, Sheikh Abdullah met with his lawyer and family for the first time since his arrest. He was charged with planning to overthrow the regime, establishing an illegal group, spying for a foreign country, inciting hatred against the regime, disrupting public order, and working to change the Constitution. On 22 June 2011, the court sentenced Sheikh Mahroos to 15 years in prison. His appeals have been denied, and the Court of Causation upheld his sentence. He was then transferred to AlQurain Military Prison. It is worth noting that on the day of the verdict, officers attacked the defendants, including Sheikh Mahroos, after they had chanted for their freedom. A complaint was filed to the military prosecution regarding the torture and beating that took place within the judicial building, but the complaint was rejected for lack of evidence.

For approximately four years, Sheikh Mahroos has suffered from severe pain caused by his colon condition. His condition has only worsened with time, and his pain has continued to increase. The prison administration refuses to provide him with the necessary treatment. Sheikh Mahroos has repeatedly told the prison clinic doctors that his conditions require an examination and treatment by a specialized doctor; however, he is only given painkillers, without referring him to a specialized doctor. Sheikh Mahroos and his family sent multiple letters to the Ombudsman and the prison administration asking them to transfer him to a hospital where he could be examined by a specialized doctor, but his requests have always been denied. Sheikh Mahroos also went on multiple hunger strikes in an attempt to receive proper treatment; however, the prison administration did nothing in response.

On 29 August 2019, Sheikh Mahroos’s family visited him in prison. He told them he was very sick and suffering due to the pain from his nervous colon syndrome and that he cannot sleep at night from the severe pain. He was sent to the prison clinic where he was only given painkillers once again. He has also requested an endoscopy to identify a wound in his colon that the clinic doctor found. After he was taken for a colonoscopy at the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) Hospital, the doctor informed him that abrasions showed in his colon, likely due to the prison’s negligence in addressing his health concerns. Sheikh Mahroos was transferred to the BDF Hospital again, where he had an appointment with a specialist. However, despite waiting for multiple hours while handcuffed and shackled, the specialist did not see him.

To this day, Sheikh Abdullah still faces ill-treatment in prison. He is not allowed to meet with his son, who is in the same prison as him, and he is sometimes denied the right to call his family. Sheikh Abdullah underwent a surgery for his colon condition, but it was not successful after authorities  did not take him to the doctor for follow-up and denied him the necessary medication. His health further deteriorated and he told the prison administration that he suffered from pain in his chest, but they neglected him. As a result, he suffered from a stroke on 31 January 2023. He was taken to Awali Heart Hospital where he had a catheterization. Sheikh Abdullah requires constant follow-up with his colon and heart doctors.

Sheikh Mahroos’s warrantless and arbitrary arrest, torture and unfair trial go against 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. Moreover, the ill-treatment and medical negligence he faces in prison violate the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules). As such, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release Sheikh Mahroos, who was not provided with a fair trial and due process rights and to investigate the allegations of torture and ill treatment and hold perpetrators accountable. Furthermore, ADHRB calls on the Bahraini authorities to provide Sheikh Mahroos with access to adequate medical care for his several health conditions.