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Case Information: Muhammad Saeed al-Sahrawi
On February 23, 2011, Abduljalil al-Singace, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Bahrain, and Muhammad Saeed al-Sahrawi, a dentist, were released from prison in Manama, Bahrain’s capital. They were among a group of 23 Shi’a Muslim opposition activists arrested in mid August 2010 in the run up to the October 2010 parliamentary elections. They were subsequently charged with forming an illegal organization, aiming to overthrow the predominantly Sunni Muslim Bahraini government and dissolve the Constitution, inciting people to “overthrow and change the political system,” and fundraising and planning terrorist acts. According to Amnesty International, one of the group’s lawyers stated that it is not clear whether the 23 men were given royal pardons or whether the case against them could be reinstated at a later date. Professor al-Singace and Dr. al-Sahrawi, and the 21 other opposition activists were among a total of more than 250 detainees released on the orders of Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, reportedly in response to demands made by protesters in the country seeking political reform.

Professor al-Singace is a spokesperson for the Human Rights Bureau of al-Haq, an opposition political organization. He was arrested on August 13, 2010, at the Bahrain International Airport as he returned from London with this family. Professor al-Singace had traveled to London to take part in a conference at the U.K. House of Lords at which he made statements critical of the Bahraini government’s human rights practices. Dr. al-Sahrawi is a board member of the banned Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He reportedly was arrested at his home on August 17, 2010. Both men were held incommunicado during their detention without access to family or legal counsel. When Professor al-Singace was brought before the prosecutor in late August, he reportedly told the attorney general that he had been tortured, including being beaten and deprived of sleep for lengthy periods, and that his wheelchair and crutches had been confiscated. (Professor al-Singace is partially paralyzed from polio and needs assistance to walk.) Early on, the CHR sent letters to high-level Bahraini government officials asking that Professor al-Singace’s allegations of torture and both men’s allegations of ill-treatment be investigated immediately and that their conditions of confinement be brought into compliance with the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. (The committee did not make requests for their release at that time because it was still investigating the cases.)

The temporary hiatus between the Bahraini government and protesters broke down in early March, when the government, together with supporting troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, used force to crackdown on protesters. Shortly thereafter, on March 17, 2011, less than a month after his release, Professor al-Singace was rearrested. He was among a group of eight well-known opposition activists detained by a joint force of Bahraini and Saudi Arabian security forces. They did not tell Professor al-Singace's family why he was being detained or where they were taking him.