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Bahrain - Fear of torture of human rights defender Mr Abdulhadi Alkhawaja while in incommunicado detention
On 9 April 2011, human rights defender Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was arrested and beaten unconscious by police in Al-Manama, Bahrain. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is a former Protection Co-ordinator for Front Line and former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). His current whereabouts, along with that of two of his sons-in-law, remains unknown and he is believed to be at high risk of torture.
It is reported that at approximately 03.00 on 9 April 2011, masked police forced entry to the home of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja's daughter, where he was present at the time. Upon entry, the police officers – one of whom reportedly spoke English, and no Arabic - proceeded to assault Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, along with human rights defender Mr Mohammed Al-Maskati, President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), who was present at the time. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was reportedly dragged down the stairs of the house by the neck, and beaten by five officers, who refused to stop despite his claims that he could not breathe. His daughter, Zainab Al-Khawaja, was reportedly assaulted when she attempted to intervene. The women present in the house were then locked in a room and prevented from leaving.
Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and three of his sons-in-law, including Mohammed Al-Maskati, were then reportedly taken to the lower apartment in the building where they were forced to the floor and were subsequently beaten severely by the police officers. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was reportedly beaten to such an extent that he lost consciousness. The police then took Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and two of his sons-in-law, Messrs Wafi Almajid and Hussein Ahmed to an unknown location where they remain in detention.
Before arriving at the home of Zainab Al-Khawaja, police had reportedly entered Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja's own home, which was empty, and the home of his cousin, Mr Habib Alhalwachi, who they also arrested. He was subsequently released.
Since his arrest, it is reported that Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has been denied access to a lawyer, and access to his medication for treating high cholesterol.On 11 April 2011 Zainab Alkhawaja, daughter of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, began a hunger strike in protest against the detention of her father, husband and brother-in-law which she intends to continue until their release.
Furthermore, it is reported that human rights defender Mr Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), is to be referred to the military prosecutor for legal action, for publishing a photo related to a Bahraini national who died in custody.
The Police Media Center said in its website that "the Assistant Undersecretary for Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Interior has said that Nabeel Rajab has published in his Twitter account a fabricated image of Ali Isa Saqer, who had died on 9 April. He said the photo differs from the one taken in the presence of the medical examiner after his death".
Front Line is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and believes that he faces a high risk of torture and ill-treatment in detention. Front Line believes that Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja's arrest and detention, as well as the charges against Nabeel Rajab, are directly related to their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights.