Younis Ashoori: One of Bahrain’s Forgotten Prisoners
By Brian Dooley
*UPDATE: Younis Ashoori was released on August 6, 2012 following an arduous appeals process. After serving 17 months in prison, his sentence was reduced to one year and he was released on time served.
Younis Ashoori is one of the forgotten prisoners in Bahrain. Though he is a hospital administrator, he has not received anything like the media attention given the other medics, who are being prosecuted in batches of two large groups – 20 ‘felony’ medics and 28 ‘misdemeanor’ medics. His is one of a handful of medic-related cases being tried separately.
But his story is very similar to those of the many others who were tortured, forced to confess, and subjected to a military trial. Ashoori—who at 60 and one of the oldest prisoners in Bahrain—was the administrator in the Muharaq Maternity and Geriatrics Hospital from mid-2010. Before that, he worked for about 30 years for Bahrain’s Department of Health, mostly as an administrator in the Salmaniya Medical Complex.
Hi family, friends, colleagues, and former detainees told Human Rights First of a very quiet, unassuming man who kept birds and spent his spare time growing plants and writing poetry. He has been in poor health for some time, and there are serious concerns about his wellbeing because he isn’t receiving adequate care in prison, his family says.
He disappeared on March 20, 2011, after being called back to the hospital. He had left work at midday because of extreme pain from a migraine and kidney stones, which had started the night before. He returned, only to find 15 police cars and soldiers, who blindfolded, handcuffed and arrested him.
Ashoori has been detained for over one year now. During his first two weeks in custody, he was, he says, tortured and denied the medication he needs for his prostate, bladder, kidney, heart, and migraines. His claims of torture are credible and consistent with those of others who were detained during that time – that he was beaten with hosepipes, slapped and punched, hanged him upside down, and verbally abused about his religion. He says his interrogators also threatened to bring his family members in and beat and rape them in front of him.
For two months he was, he says, unable to change his clothes or wash and had to drink out of the same cup he urinated in. When he was taken to the Bahrain Defense Force hospital and urinated blood, he said the doctor punched him in the kidneys after asking where he hurt most.
He was brought before a military court in June 2011, charged with delivering oxygen cylinders to the site of a protest, replacing images in the hospital of Bahrain’s political leadership with Shiite religious symbols, and inciting hatred against the regime. He denied all these charges and the second two have now been dropped.
The regime is still pressing charges on the first count, however, and he was sentenced to three years by the military court. He is due to have an appeal hearing this Sunday.
Like many others Human Rights First has met, Ashoori says he was forced him to sign false statements after torture and while blindfolded. During his trial the prosecutor also used “secret witnesses” who did not appear in court, while the defense witnesses were unable to testify.
He is in Jaw Central Prison, and his family told Human Rights First that despite his several medical problems, he only receives painkillers. He has been in detention for more than a year now, a civilian convicted by a military court after an unfair trial. It is time to drop the charges against him and against all those convicted by the discredited military court. His court hearing on Sunday should be to announce his unconditional release.