Profile in Persecution: Mujtaba AbdulHusain Ali Ahmed

Mujtaba AbdulHusain Ali Ahmed was a 16-year-old high school student when he and his friend Husain Ahmed Habib Darrab were arrested at the latter’s grandfather’s house on 27 August 2019 without a warrant. He was subjected to torture, enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, and reprisal, and has been denied his right to a fair retrial before the Children Restorative Justice Court. He is currently held in Jau Prison, serving an 18-year and 7-month prison sentence resulting from an unfair trial.

On 27 August 2019, plainclothes officers and Riot Police officers stormed the home of Husain’s grandfather, where Mujtaba and Husain were sleeping, without presenting an arrest or search warrant. Subsequently, officers from the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) and Security Police officers apprehended them. Then, they moved them to a bus where young men and children had gathered after authorities raided and arrested them in their homes. While on the bus, the officer asked Husain to tell him where Kameel Juma Hasan -the son of activist Najah Yusuf- was, so that he would release everyone on the bus. When he refused, he beat both of them. He was then moved to the CID building, where he forcibly disappeared, as his family knew nothing about his whereabouts. He also was denied contacting them.

Mujtaba was convicted in 2017 of gathering charges and was sentenced in absentia to one year’s imprisonment and a fine. However, he was not imprisoned. In 2019, Mujtaba and his friend, Husain Ahmed Habib Darrab, knew that they were part of a chased group in which the authorities wanted Kameel Juma Hasan. 

During Mujtaba’s interrogation at the CID, which lasted for two weeks, CID officers brutally tortured him and placed him in solitary confinement for eight days. They severely beat and kicked him all over his body, especially on sensitive areas, stripped him naked, and sexually harassed him. They presented him with a choice: either falsely stating that his friends Kameel Juma Hasan, Husain Ahmed Habib Darrab, and Habib Ali Habib committed a crime, or fabricating charges against his uncle, Qasim AlMoumen, who was outside Bahrain. They also threatened to arrest his grandmother and charge her in the case if he did not confess. As a result, he falsely confessed to his friends under pressure. Because of the intense torture, he developed weak hearing. Subsequently, Mujtaba was transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center, where he managed to contact his family for the first time since his arrest. However, the officers insisted that he put the phone on speaker mode and only allowed him a very brief call. This call lasted for a few seconds, during which Mujtaba only managed to say, “I’m under investigation, and I’m fine,” before hanging up. The prison administration permitted him to meet his family for the first time three months after his arrest.

Mujtaba was not brought promptly before a judge, did not have adequate time and facilities to prepare for his trial, and was denied access to an attorney. In court, he informed the judge that his confessions were made under torture; however, the judge ignored his statement. Furthermore, he did not attend all the court sessions as the prison administration was denying him the right to participate in the sessions under false pretexts, such as not shaving his hair. Despite being a minor, no one was allowed to accompany him to the trial. Consequently, the court convicted Mujtaba between 2019 and 2020 in 12 cases related to illegal gathering, riots, criminal arson, and the manufacturing and possession of explosive packaging and Molotov. It sentenced him to a total of 22 years in prison with a fine while issuing some of these sentences in absentia. Mujtaba appealed his ruling, and it was reduced to 18 years and seven months on appeal.

While serving his sentence at the Dry Dock Detention Center, officers placed Mujtaba in solitary confinement many times. On two occasions, they beat him and put him in solitary confinement just because he was standing and looking out of the cell window. In September 2023, Mujtaba was transferred to Jau Prison after he turned 21 years old, where he is currently serving his sentence.

On 16 September 2023, about 28 young convicts initiated a hunger strike due to the Jau prison administration’s disregard for their rights. The prisoners’ demands included their request for education, family visits, healthy meals, clothing, proper medical treatment, and to be retried before the Children Restorative Justice Court under the Restorative Justice Law for Children. Mujtaba joined this strike, demanding a retrial before the Children’s Court, but the Public Prosecution rejected his repeated requests. He consistently asked the representatives of the Public Prosecutor to apply the Restorative Justice Law for Children, issued in 2021, to his case, as he was sentenced in the adult court when he was 17 years old. In his last meeting with a Public Prosecutor’s representative, the official assured him that a report of his case would be filed with the prisoners and children’s court. However, he has yet to receive any response. The prison administration also promised Mujtaba to meet his demands, so he ended his hunger strike. However, his demands have not yet been fulfilled.

Mujtaba’s warrantless arrest as a minor, enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, torture, unfair trial, reprisal, and denial of his right to a fair retrial before the Children Restorative Justice Court all constitute violations of Bahrain’s obligations under the Bahraini Constitution and international treaties. These treaties include the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

As such, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mujtaba. ADHRB also urges an investigation into the allegations of torture, enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, unfair trial, and ill-treatment, with a commitment to holding the perpetrators accountable. Furthermore, it calls on Bahrain to respect Mujtaba’s rights as a child, provide him compensation for all the violations he has faced in prison, or at the very least, respond to his demand for retrial under the Restorative Justice Law for Children, leading to his release.