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Bahrain found evidence of torture behind confession. But death sentences still stand.

In Bahrain, human rights concerns over death sentences amid evidence of torture – The Washington Post 11/07/2020, 16:58
Democracy Dies in Darkness
Bahrain found evidence of torture behind
confession. But death sentences still
stand.
By Sarah Dadouch
July 11, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. GMT+1
BEIRUT — After signs of torture were discovered, a government watchdog in Bahrain concluded for the first time that physical duress might have been used in extracting a confession, prompting a court to overturn death sentences for two prisoners.
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But another Bahraini court that reconsidered the case earlier this year reinstated the death sentences for the two men, who are charged with targeting police officers with a bomb and killing one of them.
On Monday, a court in the tiny Persian Gulf country is scheduled to hold a final hearing before the executions proceed.
In a call to his wife from prison a week ago, one of the inmates bemoaned what human rights activists call a miscarriage of justice.
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In Bahrain, human rights concerns over death sentences amid evidence of torture – The Washington Post 11/07/2020, 16:58
“I am Mohammed Ramadan. Sentenced to execution. And I know that nobody might care about or listen to me, because I do not have money, or a [high] position, and am not famous,” he said, according to a recording made by his wife, Zeinab.
“There are pictures, medical reports, witnesses, which all prove that I was tortured,” Ramadan said. “I am innocent of the crime of which I was accused, subjected to a sham trial and sentenced to death. My death will be unlawful, and yet, it has been [ordained] by law.”
Ramadan, 37, and his friend Hussain Moosa, 34, were sentenced in 2014 to death, and a year later Bahrain’s highest court upheld the capital punishment.
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In Bahrain, human rights concerns over death sentences amid evidence of torture – The Washington Post 11/07/2020, 16:58
But the Special Investigations Unit, which is part of the public prosecutor’s office, uncovered a previously undisclosed medical report by a government doctor saying that Moosa had injuries that matched his allegations of torture. Citing the doctor’s findings of injuries on Moosa’s wrists, the SIU concluded there was evidence of torture.
In a memo opening the 573-page document, which was reviewed by The Washington Post, the SIU said that if the court had known of the nature and timing of the injuries, it might have had rendered a different ruling.
The watchdog agency had reviewed the case as part of its mandate to investigate criminal allegations against security forces for torture or mistreatment of prisoners.
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In Bahrain, human rights concerns over death sentences amid evidence of torture – The Washington Post 11/07/2020, 16:58
Moosa and Ramadan are Shiite Muslims who participated in pro- democracy protests that engulfed Bahrain in 2011 during the Arab Spring demonstrations after facing years of discrimination by the Sunni-controlled government.
Both men said they have been tortured and sexually assaulted. Moosa told the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) that he had confessed under torture, incriminating Ramadan as well.
After the SIU released its findings and urged that the death sentences be revoked, the Court of Cessation, which had issued them, threw out its earlier ruling.
But the separate High Criminal Court of Appeal reissued the death sentences in January. The public prosecutor said the court reinstated the sentences after finding that the convictions were not based on the defendants’ statements. The court also rejected the conclusion that Moosa’s confession occurred because of torture and cited evidence that he had not been abused, according to a legal document obtained by BIRD.
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In Bahrain, human rights concerns over death sentences amid evidence of torture – The Washington Post 11/07/2020, 16:58
“The court effectively rewrote the government’s own evidence to discount Moosa’s torture,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement Wednesday.
A Bahraini government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about the case.
“This trial exemplifies the injustice faced by dissidents in Bahrain, where opposing the government is punished with torture, judicial harassment and even death,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, advocacy director at BIRD. “Bahrain’s Western allies have long turned a blind eye to these abuses, and the time has come for them to take a stand.”
The SIU had conducted its investigation after Bahrain came under pressure from Britain’s Foreign Office for not responding to complaints submitted by Ramadan’s wife and a U.S.-based human rights group, both claiming he had been tortured. Bahrain initially denied receiving a complaint, but an advocacy group, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, produced a receipt, showing the complaint had been submitted. Bahrain then referred the case to the SIU.
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In Bahrain, human rights concerns over death sentences amid evidence of torture – The Washington Post 11/07/2020, 16:58
Family members said they had noticed the effect of torture soon after the men’s arrests.
“I saw the torture marks on his wrist. His hand was bloated,” said Zahra, Moosa’s younger sister, in an interview. She said she saw him a week after his arrest. “I got psychologically exhausted looking at him.”
For the past few years, Zahra said Moosa has described torture, including how his genitalia were so badly abused that he’d involuntarily urinate.
When Ramadan’s wife, Zeinab, first saw him in detention, 10 days after his arrest, she found herself looking at a gaunt man who resembled her husband. “When I hugged him, I tried to press him close, and I felt his body flinch,” she recalled.
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In Bahrain, human rights concerns over death sentences amid evidence of torture – The Washington Post 11/07/2020, 16:58
Both Zahra and Zeinab said the two men both do not expect their sentence will be overturned again. All four believe the men are likely to be executed.
“Because of my bitter experiences with the court, I expect the worst,” Zeinab said. “We are living a nightmare.”
Sarah Dadouch
Sarah Dadouch is a Beirut-based Middle East correspondent for The Washington Post. She was previously a Reuters correspondent in Beirut, Riyadh and Istanbul.
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