1 January 2011
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its astonishment and amazement for the silence of the officials in the security apparatuses at the Ministry of Interior and the National Security Apparatus, as well as the Public Prosecution affiliated with the Ministry of Justice, and them refraining from explaining how the detailed confessions of the two defendants in the case of assaulting and the attempt to murder the editor-in-chief of Al-Watan newspaper (Muhanad Abu-Zaitoon); the defendants are: Jaffar Ahmed Nasser Juma’a (27 years old), and Hasan Ali Mahdi Ramadan Mohammed (21 years old), as well as how the defendants were pushed to perform the crime which they are clear of, especially after the decisive testimony of the victim Abu-Zaitoon which stunned everyone in court and which is that the two defendants present in court and who have made detailed confessions of how they plotted and assaulted him are not the same two people who attacked him, and he even denied facing an attempted murder in first place, justifying that the attack on him was not an intended with murder, which caused the court to release the defendants with ensuring their place of residence, after they had spent more than three months in prison under physical and mental torture.
The Assault and the Confessions Extracted under Torture
The local newspapers had announced on Thursday 26th August 2010, that the editor-in-chief of Al-Watan newspaper was subjected to an attack by two masked people at three am in the morning and which led to his injury and burning part of his car. On Monday 30th August 2010, the local newspapers published a statement for the head of Public Security stating that the security apparatuses were able to arrest the two people accused of attacking the editor-in-chief of Al-Watan newspaper Muhanad Abu-Zaitoon . He indicated that the security apparatuses had intensely embarked on a search and investigation operation and which led to determining their identity and arresting them, where they confessed what they were charged with, although their descriptions did not match the description stated by the victim when he reported the incident.
On Tuesday 31st August 2010, the First Attorney-General Abdulrahman Al-Sayed stated, ‘The Public Prosecution questioned the defendants who confessed in detail committing the crime and their agreement to assault the victim and burn his car. Al-Sayed noted that in order to execute what they had intended to do, they prepared a glass bottle containing flammable petroleum substance and a sharp tool to attack him and they headed towards his work place at Al-Watan newspaper, and as soon as they caught him, one of them started beating him with the sharp tool in his possession and while the victim was busy defending himself, the other took advantage of that and poured the petroleum substance inside the car and set it on fire.’ He added, ‘the Public Prosecution accompanied them to the place of the incident to make a visual inspection where they acted out how they committed the incident and which was in line with their confessions; the investigation resulted in seizing the tools used in committing the crime. The Public Prosecution ordered detaining the defendants for 60 days pending investigation considering it a terrorist crime in preparation for transferring them to the specialized court as soon as the investigations were over’ . Note that the details of the film that was shot to act out the alleged crime contradicted the results of the investigation as far as who did beating with the sharp tool and who attempted to burn the car.
As is the case in such cases, the witnesses are usually either security men or intelligence officers, the witnesses that were included in the case file and who witnessed the alleged crime act are: Chief Prosecutor Muhana Al-Shayji, Captain Ahmed Khalifa Al-Thawadi, and Lieutenant Colonel Sheikh Khalifa Al-Khalifa member of the ruling family and Police Chief of the Central Governorate, as well as the photographer Lance Corporal Hussein Jassim. The Public Prosecution and for its inquiries about the defendants, has mainly relied on what was called ‘secret sources’ brought by the Lieutenant Ahmed Mahmood Al-Dalhan. The defendants were later brought forth based on the Anti-Terrorism Law condemned by many international organizations including the UN.
A Security and Media Campaign and a Prior Conviction along with Publishing the Photos and Names of the Innocent as Criminals
This assault was followed with an organized security and media campaign that seems to have been prepared in advance before the incident – which made the country appear as if it is a victim of terrorism in order to justify all those arrests that targeted hundreds of people and children since last August. The local TV and Radio, as well as Bahrain News Agency took part in a media fright and in a prior conviction of the defendants. The photos of the defendants and their names were displayed on Monday 30th August 2010. In a statement by the Ministry of Interior Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa (from the ruling family), he condemned ‘vicious murder attempt’ that Abu-Zaitoon faced, and he said that ‘the attempted murder is an act of terrorism’, the head of the Corporation of Information Affairs, Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa (from the ruling family) also condemned the incident.
The King Receives Congratulatory Telegrams for the Arrest of the Innocent
The King’s name was used and was thrust upon the pioneers of the prior conviction of defendants - the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) later published ‘His Majesty the King received congratulatory telegrams from officials, citizens and residents on the occasion of arresting two perpetrators of the terrorist incident, praising through their appreciation and thanks the great efforts carried out by the security apparatuses, and its distinct performance in the rapid arrest of the perpetrators of the terrorist incident’. The Bahrain Journalists Association (governmental) hastened to send a congratulatory telegram to the country’s King on the occasion of arresting the perpetrators of what it named the terrorist act. The Governor of the Central Governorate Mubarak Al-Fadhel commended the immediate efforts of the security men which led to the arrest of the perpetrators of the assault. And as is its norm in each security campaign, the Authority was active in empowering itself from abroad through the speedy visits carried out by the security and political leaders to gain international support and back up for the Authority in its security campaign.
Abu-Zaitoon’s Surprising Testimony, Acquitted those Who Confessed under Torture their Attempt of Murder
On Monday 13th December 2010, and after more than three months, the Bahraini newspapers surprised the public opinion with the news of releasing the defendants in the case of the assault of Abu-Zaitoon after he had confirmed before court that the defendants brought forth in court and who made detailed confessions of the plot and assault are not the same people who attacked him, and that they did not even have the same characteristics of the real defendants, and he basically denied being subjected to the alleged murder attempt stating that the defendants who attacked him did not intend to murder, but rather hurt him, and which is the decisive testimony that led to the release of the defendants while ensuring their place of residence.
After their release, the defendants Jaffar Juma’a and Hasan Ramadan informed the Bahrain Center for Human Rights the actual reasons that forced them to admit a crime they initially did not commit, and which happened as a result of the beating and physical and mental torture they faced during the interrogation, and the threat to disgrace their honor or to hold some of their family members in prison as hostages.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes, and through the arrests it had detected in the last months, that there are certain targeted lists among those arrests in the possession of the security apparatuses, and which include names of activists that are known for their public activities in the Shiite villages and areas, and that the majority of arrests that took place in the last months under various charges and pretexts were in fact targeting those individuals from those lists, and among them are those two defendants as they are known for their public activities in their areas.
The Assaults... and Who Stands Behind Them?
Since mid last August, the security institutes in Bahrain, led by the National Security Apparatus launched - a suppressive, systematic and continuous campaign until this day, targeting hundreds of activists, religious figures, human rights defenders and children – at a time where the country lived an undeclared state of emergency in all the Shiite areas and villages. This suppressive campaign lacked the humane and moral standards, where hundreds of people were thrown into prison and the majority were tortured, disfigured and sexually harassed, and especially the children among them. This deterioration reached a level that has never been witnessed in the country before. As a result of this security campaign several international organizations and institutions released statements and reports that condemn and denounce this suppressive policy pursued by the Bahraini Authorities to oppress its opponents, at a time when the Authority attempted to justify its security campaign and portray it as if it is within the context of the war against terrorism, which is something in fact Bahrain is not suffering from.
What also raises doubts about who stands behind this attack is that this incident came at a time when the security apparatuses were searching for pretexts and justification that could cause this security campaign, and that the context and planning of the media campaign that succeeded this incident compels one to believe that the incident was arranged by the National Security Apparatus, in order to drive the country towards further sectarian polarization and dispute, especially during the period that directly preceded the last Parliamentary elections.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights emphasizes that the allegation of the systematic torture in the prisons of Bahrain have become a reality that is unquestionable, and that many of these confessions have been extracted by force. Now, after the testimony stated by the victim acquitting the defendants from the crime of attempted murder, it has become quite vital for the security apparatuses and Public Prosecution to initiate an immediate and transparent investigation to identify the reasons that led to having innocent individuals admit a crime they primarily did not commit.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights repeats again that there are highly credible allegations of many confessions in dozens of political and security cases that have been falsely extracted under torture and mistreatment. Based on that, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the following:
1. Immediately stop the mental and physical torture against the detainees,
2. Investigate in a neutral, public and impartial manner all the torture allegations that targeted hundreds of opponents of the political regime, and to bring forth the perpetrators and inciters to justice.
3. Immediately present all the detainees to independent medical committees to reveal the incidents and marks of torture, and to exclude the forensic doctor – affiliated with the Public Prosecution - from revealing and investigating the incidents of torture as the Public Prosecution is a party that lacks independence.
4. Release all the detainees, including the activists and human rights defenders, as their arrest was due to them practicing their fundamental rights in expression, organization and peaceful gathering, and which are guaranteed by international laws.
5. Immediately stop applying the Anti-Terrorism Law.
6. Stop the media campaign that incites hatred and drives the country towards sectarian conflict.
7. Stop libelling and publishing the names and photos of the detainees in the newspapers, as an implementation of the principle that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty.
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