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The Torture of Al Khawaja by American-Backed King of Bahrain

Update: Zeinab AlKhawaja (@angryarabiya) reports that her father has been moved to the hospital where the abuse described below took place last summer. His attorney and family have not been allowed to visit or speak to him for more than two days leading his attorney ‘to fear the worst.” Additional reports suggest he is on some type of IV fluids and the possibility of forced feeding but details are unclear. Zeinab is “on her way” to a further interrogation by the public prosecutor. This new questioning follows an additional arrest and release when she went to the hospital and asked to see her father.

Last summer, the King of Bahrain funded the “independent” Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry to review human rights issues in the country. The report was praised by the King’s American friends – and presented as justification for continued American support of the monarchy.

This past November the BICI commission’s final report included the following description of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja’s arrest and detention as one of 60 case studies of “alleged victims of torture or mistreatment.” (see page 430 and following of the full report, available for download at the commission site here )

As readers here know, Al Khawaja, is close to death this weekend as he continues a hunger strike as his only remaining way to protest the monarchy’s abuses. On Friday, the US State Department finally issued a statement in response to his hunger strike as well as the arrest of his daughter Zeinab Al Khawaja:

“We call on the government of Bahrain to ensure appropriate treatment of detainees in accordance with universal human rights and due process,” said State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell.

Here’s the “appropriate treatment” Patrick Ventrell and his bosses Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton know full well their friend the Bahrain king dispensed to Al Khawaja: [cont’d]

CASE NO. 8 (Examined by forensic team) Date of statement: 3 August 2011
Statement: The detainee was arrested on 8 April 2011 while staying with his daughters. Police and masked men in plain clothes came to the house at night. The detainee was thrown on the ground, rolled down stairs, kicked and beaten with sticks. His hands were cuffed behind his back and he was blindfolded. His son-in-law was also arrested. Immediately after the arrest, the detainee received a hard blow to the side of his face, which broke his jaw and knocked him to the ground. He was taken to the MoI clinic and then the BDF Hospital where he had major jaw surgery for four broken bones in his face.

The detainee spent approximately seven days in BDF hospital. He was blindfolded the whole time and handcuffed to the bed with tight cuffs. When he asked the hospital staff to loosen the cuffs, they refused. Security personnel in the hospital threatened him with sexual abuse and execution. They also made sexual threats against his wife and daughter. The doctor told the detainee that he needed three weeks of care but he was taken to Al Qurain Prison after only six or seven days.

At Al Qurain Prison, the detainee spent two months in solitary confinement in a small cell measuring approximately 2.5m x 2m. He did not know where he was or what day it was. There was no fresh air. He was hooded whenever he went to the toilet. Eight days after his surgery, regular beatings started at night. Masked guards cursed him and hit him in his head and hands, causing swelling. They forced a stick into his anus. He was also beaten on the soles of his feet (falaka) and on his toes. He went on a hunger strike because he could not bear the conditions. After three days he became so weak that he could not stand.

He was asked to sign a document stating that he was refusing to take his medication and food. He was taken to the clinic and put on a stretcher. His ankles and one arm were tied to the stretcher and an intravenous line was inserted despite his refusal to have this procedure performed. He was threatened with a nasogastric tube or PEG (tube placed surgically through the skin into the stomach), and he agreed to stop the strike. The following day he saw a doctor. One side of his face felt paralysed. The beatings resumed after three days and he resumed his hunger strike. He asked to see a surgeon for his surgical wound and the paralysis in his face, and a surgeon was brought to see him. In total, the detainee went on three hungers strikes, the longest of which lasted three days.

The detainee was routinely beaten before and after interrogation by men in civilian clothes and masks. He had bruises all over his body and was seen by nurses. A “forensic doctor” came with a masked guard to see him after he had been in detention for about three weeks. In the three days prior to the doctor’s visit, the detainee was not beaten during interrogations. The doctor documented injuries to his feet and right wrist. On 4 or 5 May, the detainee was forced to apologise to the King. At one point he location where he was put in a bed and threatened. A man’s penis was put in his face and on his back. His head hit the floor and he passed out and awoke in the car. He was subsequently returned to his cell. A surgeon came to see him and was angry that the surgical wounds were now more swollen.

On 8 May, the detainee went to court and was cursed and sexually harassed in the car on the way there. He was taken to the side of the court for “executions”. A guard told him, “It is a long time since we executed anyone.” The detainee told the judge about the sexual harassment and beatings in prison. As punishment, he was punched and kicked, and left in the sun blindfolded for 45 minutes with his hands raised. He was sentenced to life in prison, at which point he raised his hand and said, “We will continue this struggle for human rights.” In response, he was beaten by the guards. He was handcuffed behind his back, his nose was hit against the wall and he was hit on his face, left wrist and right leg. On 22 June, he was taken to the emergency room at BDF hospital.

The detainee has lost 12 kilograms during his time in detention. He suffers several physical ailments including the following: lower spine pain when sitting; right elbow pain; right lateral ankle pain; left facial pain; numbness and gum pain; and he cannot open his mouth normally. He feels startled whenever he hears the sound of a door. He sleeps only two or three hours per night. The worst experience for him has been hearing other people being tortured and not being able to help; this has caused him to feel ashamed.

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com