An artwork with a poem by Mahmood from his prison cell

Charges related to freedom of expression dropped on the media, on reality detainees still in jail

Last Update 10 Jan 2012

While Bahrain has been selected to be the Arab Capital of Culture for 2012, talented and creative Bahraini individuals who have contributed to the enrichment of Bahraini culture are being subjected to torture and imprisoned for exercising their basic right to freedom of expression. Mahmood Abdulsaheb is a Bahraini writer, photographer, painter and a member of many regional and international organizations concerned with Arabian Horses. He has been detained since March 15 2011, and sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment which has decreased to 3.5 years after an appeal. The accusations against him are of participating in illegal assemblies and fabricating and disseminating photos of injuries.

Representing Bahrain and contributing to the enrichment of the Bahraini culture

Mohmood Abdulsaheb is a Bahraini father of three. He is a man of many talents and an active member of Bahraini society. He works in “Royal Equestrian Federation” and is an international coach and member in many organizations including World Arabian Horse Organization (WAHO), Arabian Horse Registry of America (AHRA) and Arabian Horse Association (LAHA).

Mahmood Abdulsaheb is a researcher interested in History with a high diploma in History from Beirut University. He is a published author with published writings and researches about History in general and the history of Arabian horses in particular. Recently he wrote a book title “ “The Legend: The Story of an Arabian Bahraini Bay Mare: An influence in USA.”"[1] , an illustrated book with photos taken by Abdulsaheb on Arabian horses and features the story of Bint El Bahreyn. In addition, he is also a painter and an amateur photographer. He participated in many photography courses and taught photography to his children.

Mahmood Abdulsaheb in a lecture about horse riding and Arabian horses in Jidhafs Cultural Center

Abdulsaheb has been praised by ministers and high officials in Bahrain for his work towards the enrichment of Bahraini culture in his writings and aiming for the development of Bahrain through his hobbies and activities.

Mahmood Abdulsaheb (left) with Son of the king Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa (right) receiving a copy of “The legend” and praising it

Arrest, home raid and ill-treatment

Mahmood Abdulsaheb was arrested in the evening of 15 March 2011 from a checkpoint near the Supreme Council of Women. He was on his way back home when he got arrested. His family knew nothing about him until 10 days, when he called and asked them to bring clothes for him in Riffa police station, where many detainees had reportedly been tortured there on the hands of some members of the royal family like Khalifa Bin Ahmed Alkhalifa (General Director of Southern Province Police)[2] .

On March 27 while Mahmood was in detention, his house was raided. It got vandalized and valuable belongings were stolen by security forces including two high-tech cameras, 2 laptops, a collection of antique cameras Mahmood collected in his travels, a collection of priceless ancient and rare coins, a sound system, video camera, some expensive watches, perfumes and more.

After a month of his arrest, he was transferred to Dry Dock prison. Following the release of a prisoner who was with him in the same prison, his family received news that Mahmood was being severely tortured. The released prisoner said that Mahmood used to faint from the severity of torture and that he was targeted and tortured more than other prisoners, probably because of his work at Royal Equestrian Federation.

In his first court hearing, according to family members, Mahmood looked meager and couldn’t stand steadily as a result of the torture he was subjected to. There was also an apparent injury on his nose.

Court hearings, charges, sentence and appeal

Mahmood called his family on May 11 to notify them that his trial in the military court will take place the following day and that he has been transferred to Riffa police station again for investigation.

His first hearing was on May 12. He was accused of: (1) illegal assembly in Pearl roundabout, (2) illegal assembly in Salmaniya Hospital, (3) illegal assembly in front of Safriya palace, (4) illegal assembly in front of the Saudi embassy and (5) fabricating and leaking photos of injured protesters. His lawyer asked for the photos that he was accused of fabricating to be examined by an expert, but the request was denied. On May 31, Mahmood's 6th court hearing, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment.

His family was allowed to see him for the first time at his first court hearing, which was after around two months of detention. Following the first visitation, they were allowed to meet with him 10 minutes after each court hearing. There were clear marks of burns caused by cigarettes on his hands. He also told his lawyer that he was being tortured before and after every court hearing, but he refused to tell the judge out of fear of worse torture. He also informed his family that after the first hearing, he was beaten inside the court building for appointing a lawyer.

On June 15, his sentence was decreased to three and a half year but he was not allowed to meet his family. On June 19, Mahmood told his family that he was tortured by 8 masked men in Al Qudaibya police station and they threatened to rape him if he refused to confess on camera for a TV show hosted by Saeed Al Hamad. He recorded the confession under torture on June 18 and it was aired on June 20 in “Open Dialogue” aired on Bahrain national TV.

In one of his family visits, he told his family about the nightly torture and the ongoing harassment he was being subjected to. He told them that he is not allowed to leave his prison cell or go to the prison’s canteen. He expressed being fed up and extremely frustrated of being in a prison cell with 7 other prisoners, all of who are not allowed to leave the cell except for an hour where they weren't even allowed to talk to each other. He said that they are given sedative pills nightly. The toilet is in the same cell which has many insects and worms inside. Food is bad and inedible most of the time and they are not allowed to practice any activities, although Jaw Prison is supposed to be a rehabilitation center. He also told them about the humiliating inspection they go through where their private areas are inappropriately touched, although it could be replaced by an electronic scanner.[3]

Mahmood’s charges fall under his practice of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. This was stated in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry's report (BICI) in paragraph 1279 page 311: “…considers that the GoB used these articles [referring to articles related to freedom of expression] to punish those in the opposition and to deter political opposition”. Despite that, there have been no actions of dropping the charges against him leading to his unfair and illegal imprisonment as he is still in detention.
Therefore, Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for the following actions international organizations and NGOs to pressure the Bahraini government for:

- Immediate release of Mahmood Abdulsaheb and all other prisoners of conscience in Bahrain - Dropping all charges against prisoners who have been targeted for exercising freedom of expression and peaceful assembly - Stop targeting people for exercising their rights and allowing them to practicing these rights freely - Hold those responsible of torture accountable and bring them to justice

Mahmood A. Ahmed Hasan's book, “The Legend: The Story of an Arabian Bahraini Bay Mare: An influence in USA.” is available online.

His works from inside the prison (click to enlarge):

Some of his photography works (click to enlarge):


[1] and [2] [3]After Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry: Situation at the Central prison is turning from worse to worst