Profile in Persecution: Saeed Abdulla Alaali

Updated: Saeed Abdulla Alaali was arbitrarily arrested by Bahraini authorities on his 25th birthday, 21 September 2016. During his detention, he was subjected to several human rights violations and he is currently detained in Jau Prison. On 7 August 2023, Saeed joined the largest hunger strike in Bahrain’s prisons, in which approximately 800 political detainees participated to protest ill-treatment and to demand their basic rights.

At 2am on 21 September 2016, police forces from the Ministry of Interior, officers in civilian clothes, as well as officers from the National Security Agency, raided Saeed’s house without presenting any arrest warrant. They were looking for a bag but did not state its contents, and they confiscated the family’s personal phones and mobile devices. Saeed was arrested and subsequently beaten in his home and in the car that drove him to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID).

A few hours after his arrest, Saeed was able to contact his parents while at the CID to inform them about his detention. Then he went incommunicado for 22 days, while he was forcibly disappeared at Building 15 of Jau Prison. On 14 October 2016, he was transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center. The family received the news through Saeed’s fellow inmate in prison. One month later, on 21 October 2016, a week later, he met his parents for the first time since his arrest.

During his interrogation at the CID and at Building 15 of Jau Prison, CID officers and officers from the Terrorism Section at Building 15 of Jau Prison, including officers in civilian clothing, tortured Saeed physically and psychologically. During this period, Saeed was not allowed to meet anyone, and his lawyer was prohibited from attending the interrogations. Despite all the torture, officers failed to coerce Saeed into giving a false confession.

Saeed was not brought promptly before a judge. During his trial, he was taken to the court several times but would be left in the bus except for once when the witnesses were presented. When Saeed was first brought before the PPO after his arrest, and when he was transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center, he was informed that he was involved in some kind of illegal assembly and an attack on the Sitra police station. However, after spending eight months in the Dry Dock Detention Center, he was surprised with the fact that the charges raised against him were changed to become: 1) Military training in Iran in 2015, and 2) Joining a terrorist group along with others and participating in a training to use weapons and fireworks in Iraq and Iran in order to commit terrorist crimes.

Despite the fact that the court announced the innocence of the main suspect and coordinator of the operation, and despite the fact that Saeed denied his charges and explained to the courts that his visit to Iran was for 12 days in order to assist his friend with medical treatment, he was not able to present and challenge the evidence presented against him, as his statements were not even taken into account in the first case. He was also unaware of the second case and was not even interrogated for it until he attended the court, but the court did not take into consideration all his statements. Also, he did not have adequate time and facilities to prepare for trial, and was denied access to his attorney.

On 21 February 2018, Saeed was sentenced to seven years in the first case, and on 18 April 2018, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and subjected to citizenship revocation in the second case. He requested appeals and cassations for his sentences, but the courts rejected them and upheld the judgements. However, Saeed’s citizenship was reinstated on 21 April 2019 as part of a Royal Pardon of 551 convicted individuals. After the issuance of the first judgment, Saeed was transferred to Jau Prison while being physically tortured.

Due to the bad food quality in prison and the excess of fat in it, Saeed developed stomach pain. His family was in contact with authorities to request a change of meals, but the authorities did not answer them. He also has knee problems, and his family was in contact with authorities to provide him with medical shoes, but no answer was given yet.

On 5 October 2020, Saeed and his fellow prisoners went on a communication strike because of the poor prison conditions that include the poor quality of the calls, the prisoners being allowed to call only five numbers, the prison authorities decreasing the number of calls allowed while increasing their fees and making the prisoners pay for them instead of the family, as well as limiting prisoners’ freedoms and banning religious practices during the month of Muharram. During this time, Saeed’s news was cut off from his family.

Despite the spread of Coronavirus, Saeed and his fellow prisoners are not provided with masks and sanitizers by the prison administration to ensure prevention from the virus, therefore their health is currently under concern. As a result of all these conditions, in addition to the bad quality of calls, which have replaced visits because of the pandemic, Saeed’s family filed two complaints that are demanding the necessary healthcare for him since he was subject to torture, and also demanding the improvement of prison conditions. However, the authorities only allowed the family to contact him for a short time, and they did not respond to the other complaints.

On 7 August 2023, Saeed went on a hunger strike alongside about 800 other detainees to protest their poor conditions and to demand their basic rights. Among these rights: increasing the number and duration of calls, increasing visitation times and allowing visits from non-first-degree relatives, allowing private visits, increasing their times outside their cells, adhering to doctors’ appointments and dispensing of medications, adjusting meals, respecting their freedom to perform religious rituals and to bring in in books, and other basic demands.

After a month of the prison administration ignoring the demands of the detainees, Saeed announced the start of the second phase of the strike and stopped drinking water, which led to a health setback after which he was transferred to the hospital. When his wife visited him, she was surprised by the deterioration of his health, as he lost 12 kilograms of his weight. He also appeared emaciated and his limbs were blue. He was also lacking concentration and suffering from frequent fainting.

After thirty-six days of suffering and neglect of the detainees’ demands, the Jau Prison administration pledged to fulfill the demands of the prisoners in exchange for ending their hunger strike, but it did not adhere to its commitments and did not fulfill the demands of the prisoners other than adjusting their meals and increasing their times outside their cells.

Saeed’s arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, religious discrimination, denial of medical treatment, unfair trial, and detention within inhumane and unhealthy conditions violate both the Bahraini Constitution as well as international obligations to which Bahrain is party, namely, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Since an arrest warrant was not presented, and given that Saeed was prohibited from challenging the evidence against him, we can conclude that Saeed is arbitrarily detained by Bahraini authorities.

Accordingly, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls upon Bahrain to uphold its human rights obligations by investigating all torture allegations to ensure accountability, and by giving Saeed the opportunity to defend himself through a fair retrial. It also urges Bahrain to provide Saeed with healthy food and the necessary health care and demands that it fulfill its pledges, stop the policy of collective punishment against political prisoners, fulfill their fair demands, leading to their immediate and unconditional release.