Profile in Persecution: Ebrahim Yusuf Ali AlSamahiji

Updated: Ebrahim Yusuf Ali AlSamahiji was a 39-year-old Bahraini citizen and an employee at the Aluminium Bahrain Company (ALBA) when Bahraini authorities arbitrarily arrested him from his home on 15 October 2015 without presenting an arrest warrant. During his detention, he was subjected to torture, sexual assault, religion-based insults, provocation, insults, enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, denial of communication, reprisals, isolation, and medical neglect. He was sentenced in an unfair trial based on evidence extracted under torture in a terrorism case known as the “Nuwaidrat Warehouse Case” and is currently serving his life sentence in Jau Prison.


On 15 October 2015, at 3:00 A.M., masked plainclothes officers arrested Ebrahim from his home. They raided his house while he was asleep, awakening and terrifying his wife and children. The officers did not present an arrest warrant or state the reason for the arrest. They searched the house and confiscated electronic devices including cellphones and computers. Ebrahim was then transferred by the officers, some of whom were holding cameras, to a small black bus with tinted windows, while other police cars were surrounding the area.   


Ebrahim managed to call his family when he arrived at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) to inform them of his location, but the line was then cut. He then forcibly disappeared for 23 days.  After that, he was able to make a second call, but the officers prohibited him from telling his family about his condition and what he was subjected to.


Ebrahim’s torture began when he was transferred to the bus on the day of his arrest and continued during his interrogation at the CID. CID officers threatened and severely tortured him to extract a coerced confession for a crime he did not commit. They beat him with batons all over his body, stripped him naked, stomped on his face, put a shoe in his mouth, and sexually assaulted him. The officers also verbally abused him by insulting his religion, his sect, and its religious leaders, and severely beat him when he refused their orders to repeat insults to his Shia sect. He was denied access to legal counsel during this time. Ebrahim initially refused to confess to the pre-prepared charges, but after being threatened with rape, he confessed to the fabricated charges related to the Nuwaidrat warehouse case. As a result of the torture, Ebrahim suffers from frequent headaches, back and leg pain, recurrent eye infections, and damaged teeth.


On 7 November 2015, three weeks after his arrest, officers forced Ebrahim to appear before the Public Prosecution Office (PPO) at dawn. He was deprived of food and sleep for three weeks, causing him to hallucinate. The prosecutor, in the presence of his lawyer, threatened to subject him to further torture if he did not confess to the charges against him. The officers also threatened to harm his family members if he did not confess. As a result, Ebrahim was forced to confess to the charges against him before the PPO. The lawyer noted that Ebrahim was narrating the events rapidly, as if he had been instructed on what to say.


When his family was finally allowed to visit Ebrahim at the CID, they noticed traces of beatings on his hands and legs and observed his difficulty in moving. He told his family about the violations that he was subjected to. After that, he was transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center. 

In 2017, a police officer from the Dry Dock Detention Center entered Ebrahim’s cell and provoked and insulted him. In response, Ebrahim asked to see the officer in charge. Instead, a group of officers entered his cell, beat him, and took him to the officer in charge, who then ordered his transfer to solitary confinement. Consequently, Ebrahim was forcibly disappeared for two weeks. He filed a complaint with the Ombudsman about this incident, but the unit manipulated the case, portraying Ebrahim as the perpetrator. The Ombudsman concluded that he had violated the laws of the Reform and Rehabilitation centers and referred the case to the court. On 10 May 2017, the court sentenced him to one month in prison and a fine for insulting a public official. Ebrahim tried to appeal the verdict, but to no avail.


Ebrahim was not brought before a judge within 48 hours of his arrest. He was not given adequate time and facilities to prepare for his trial, which began eight months after his arrest. He was unable to present evidence or challenge the evidence against him, communicate with his lawyer during the trial, and was prevented from attending some sessions. Moreover, the court used confessions extracted under torture as evidence against him in the trial. On 28 December 2017, more than two years after his arrest, the Fourth High Criminal  Court sentenced Ebrahim and nine other defendants to life imprisonment and revoked their citizenship in the Nuwaidrat warehouse case. Ebrahim was convicted of 1) joining a terrorist group, 2) possessing and manufacturing weapons, fireworks, and explosives, and smuggling them by sea for terrorist purposes, and 3) training in the use, manufacture, and smuggling of weapons, fireworks, and explosives in Iraq and Iran with the intention of committing terrorist crimes. Many of the charges brought against Ebrahim during the trial sessions were different from what he confessed to during the investigation, confirming that some of the charges were fabricated by the court. For example, he was accused of smuggling weapons by sea because he owns a cruiser. The weapons training charge was completely fabricated yet used against him during the trial. His family also believes that the court manipulated the case and added charges to Ebrahim AlSamahiji’s case that were originally intended for another defendant with the same first name, Ebrahim. Furthermore, the family believes that a third person, also named Ebrahim, was convicted on similar charges due to sharing the same name with both Ebrahim AlSamahiji and the co-defendant named Ebrahim. On 30 May 2018, the Court of Appeal upheld Ebrahim’s sentence, and the judge who issued the appeal ruling was the same judge who issued the initial verdict, in violation of basic fair trial rules. On 8 February 2020, the Court of Cassation reinstated Ebrahim’s citizenship but upheld the rest of the sentence. After the initial verdict in the Nuwaidrat warehouse burning case, Ebrahim was transferred to Jau Prison.


Ebrahim was repeatedly threatened, insulted, and provoked by officers at both the Dry Dock Detention Center and Jau Prison. He was repeatedly subjected to enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, deprivation of communication, and medical negligence for eye, dental, stomach, and knee issues. His family submitted several complaints to the Ombudsman and the Special Investigations Unit regarding his torture, unfair trial, medical negligence, enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, and communication cutoffs, but to no avail. Moreover, Ebrahim was subjected to reprisals several times after these units received complaints about his situation.


On 17 November 2022, widespread protests broke out in the political prisoners’ buildings in Jau Prison to protest the insulting and mistreatment of prisoner Sheikh AbdulHadi AlMkhawdar, a prominent cleric and opposition leader, by prison officers. This mistreatment prompted Sheikh AlMkhawdar to declare a hunger strike. Ebrahim was among the protesters in Building 8, showing solidarity with the Sheikh. The prisoners refused prison officers’ orders to return to their cells, demanding a meeting with the director of Jau Prison, Hisham AlZayani. The protests escalated after a delegation of prisoners met with AlZayani, who showed indifference to the insult that Sheikh AlMkhawdar had endured and to the Sheikh’s declaration of a hunger strike. The delegation then demanded a meeting with Sheikh AlMkhawdar, who demanded them to stop the protests during the meeting. The prisoners’ representatives agreed with the prison administration that prison officers would conduct a simple superficial search inside the prison wards to confiscate papers and banners used in the protests. However, the officers reneged on the agreement. Ebrahim said in an audio recording that officers began tearing up the furniture in Building 8, where he was held, and confiscated his and his colleagues’ personal belongings while they were praying Friday prayers, preventing them from continuing their prayers. Ebrahim objected to this search, telling the officers that they had broken their previous pledge to conduct a superficial and unprovocative search. The officers then accused Ebrahim of incitement and of possessing a private cell phone inside the prison, and transferred him to solitary confinement for six days in retaliation.


After his solitary confinement ended on 23 November 2022, the Jau Prison administration continued to take retaliatory measures against Ebrahim. He was isolated by being transferred to Building 2 and placed with foreign criminal prisoners who were addicted to smoking and drugs. In an audio recording, Ebrahim reported that his cellmates would not stop smoking, causing him to almost suffocate on 30 November 2022 due to his asthma, which was exacerbated by the smoke. Additionally, he complained in the same recording about blood being scattered all over the place resulting from prisoners’ deliberate self-inflicted wounds during bouts of hysteria. He expressed concern that he could be infected with AIDS.


Ebrahim’s contact with his family was frequently cut off during his isolation due to the frequent breakdown of phones inside the building, often caused by prisoners cutting the phone wires. Additionally, he reported that these prisoners were using his own personal belongings.


During his isolation, Ebrahim suffered several asthma attacks due to exposure to smoking by the addicted prisoners who shared the same cell with him. Despite his family’s repeated requests to see an asthma specialist doctor, the prison administration consistently referred him to the prison clinic doctor, who, without conducting any examination, always claimed that Ebrahim was not suffering from anything. His wife submitted several complaints to the Ombudsman regarding his situation in isolation, demanding proper treatment and transfer to another building suitable for his health condition. However, the Ombudsman’s response was always that Ebrahim was in a building suitable for his status and classification in prison and that he had no health issues, completely ignoring the slow death he was suffering from.


On 4 January 2024, Ebrahim was attacked by two foreign criminal prisoners in the cell where he was isolated, resulting in a quarrel and an injury to his left hand. Subsequently, the prison administration forcibly disappeared him for a week. His family was left in the dark about his well-being, fate, and whereabouts, only to later learn that he was held in solitary confinement. Ebrahim was subsequently moved back to the same cell with the prisoners who had attacked him in Building 2 at Jau Prison. After enduring over a year in isolation, Ebrahim was eventually relocated to Building 8, specifically designated for political prisoners.


Ebrahim continues to suffer from medical neglect while experiencing tooth pain, colitis, stomach inflammation, and chronic eye inflammation. He also endures knee pain resulting from an untreated old knee fracture. Additionally, he grapples with complications from gallbladder removal surgery, gastric fluctuations due to stomach sensitivity to medications, and chronic injuries stemming from torture. Despite his repeated requests over the years for treatment and his deteriorating health condition, the Jau Prison administration persists in denying him his right to proper medical care.


Ebrahim’s warrantless arrest, torture, sexual assault, religious-based insults, provocation, insults, forced disappearance, solitary confinement, denial of communication and access to a lawyer during interrogation, unfair trial based on evidence extracted under torture, retaliation, isolation, and medical negligence all constitute clear violations of the Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which Bahrain is a party. Moreover, the violations he faced during his imprisonment, particularly medical negligence, constitute a breach of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules.


Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ebrahim. ADHRB also urges the Bahraini government to investigate allegations of arbitrary arrest, torture, provocation, insults, forced disappearance, solitary confinement, denial of communication and access to a lawyer during interrogation, religion-based insults, retaliation, and isolation, and hold perpetrators accountable. ADHRB further calls on the Bahraini government to compensate Ebrahim for the violations he suffered, including injuries resulting from torture. ADHRB warns of Ebrahim’s deteriorating health condition resulting from years of medical neglect and urges the Jau Prison administration to urgently provide him with appropriate and necessary medical care, holding it responsible for any further deterioration in his health.