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25 Jan, 2013 05:20

Royal treatment: Bahraini princess & princes accused of torturing activists

Royal treatment: Bahraini princess & princes accused of torturing activists

A Bahraini princess is in court for the torture of three pro-democracy activists in detention. The princess’s case is the latest in a string of cases of torture and violence has seen the light in a report issued by Bahraini opposition.

Princess Nora Bint Ebrahim al-Khalifa who serves in Bahrain’s Drugs Control Unit, allegedly collaborated with another officer to torture three activists held in detention following a pro-democracy rally against the island kingdom’s monarchy.

The princess categorically denies the charges of torture set against her.

Two of the princess’s alleged victims were Doctors Ghassan Daif and Bassem Daif, who went to help the hundreds wounded when police opened fire with teargas and birdshot during protests in 2011. They were taken into custody in March of that year when it is thought that al-Khalifa tortured them.

The third victim, 21-year-old Ayat al-Qurmazi, was arrested for public reading of inflammatory poetry criticizing the royal family. She claims her blindfold slipped while she was being tortured and she caught a glimpse of al-Khalifa.

As Muslim women have never before been known to take part in interrogations and tortures, Nora Al-Khalifa stands out as the grossest character in the human rights activists’ report, RT’s Nadezhda Kevorkova said.Princess Nora’s case is the latest in a series of torture scandals highlighted in a report by the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights.A 55-pages report titled ‘Citizens in the Grip of Torture’ is based on the nine interviews with named and anonymous witnesses. It was published both in English and Arabic.The report states that two of the Bahraini King’s sons Nasser Bin Hammad Al-Khalifa and Khalid Bin Hammad Al-Khalifa, as well as two other members of the royal family, Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa and Nora Bint Ebrahim Al-Khalifa, directly took part in torturing the activists.

Torture stories include rare details that Muslims usually prefer to shun for ethical reasons, Bahraini opposition activists told Kevorkova. After getting numerous letters from torture victims who mentioned the four members of the royal family among the arresters and torturers, the report’s authors decided it was vital to get an investigation going, RT’s Kevorkova said.Included in the report are short CVs of those four members of the Bahrain’s royal family accused of human rights violations. Nasser Bin Hamad, the fourth son of the King Hamad, is a colonel and commander of Bahrain’s royal guard. Bin Hamad, his 23-year-old brother, has also held a number of senior positions despite his young age and is married to Saudi Arabian King’s daughter.The other two Al-Khalifas directly responsible for cases of torture and violence as stated in the report are Colonel Khalifa Bin Ahmed, a high-ranking police officer dismissed from his post in September 2011, and Lieutenant Nora Bint Ebrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain’s Drug Enforcement Administration.

Tortured for reading versesPoet Ayat Al-Qurmozy was arrested in March 2011 after reciting a poem against the Bahraini regime during a peaceful demonstration in Pearl Roundabout. She was detained by masked men dressed in civilian clothing. On her release, al-Qurmozy told of tortures used on her by both men and women. One of the women involved was identified as Nora al-Khalifa.The report states that Nora spat on al-Qurmozy and into her mouth, slapped her in the face repeatedly, administered electric shocks and shouted anti-Shia slurs.On the eighth day of her arrest, al-Qurmozy was brought blindfolded into a room full of men, documents the report. They shouted abuse at her and demanded she tell them by whom she was given the verses and how much she was paid for reading them.“I was surprised by a woman grabbing me and slapping me hard in the face… When she was screaming, cursing and slapping me hard on my face, the blindfold came down off my eyes and I saw her face a bit but they rushed to lift it,” al-Qurmozy later said, as cited in the report.Al-Qurmozy was then brutally beaten, and Nora gave her electric shocks every time she lost consciousness, the report says. After that Nora allegedly went on torturing the young poet every night, beating her on the face and spitting on her every time she found her without a blindfold. Threatened by rape, the poet girl was forced to confess to her ‘guilt’ in front of a camera. But her torture continued after al-Qurmozy was thrown into a car, the report says, elaborating on how Nora slapped her on the head, threatened to cut out her tongue, spat and put a wooden bathroom broom into her mouth and beat her continually. All these abuses were witnessed by another arrested woman, Jalila Salman, who was put in the same car.Tortured for taking part in demonstrationSheikh Mohammad Habib al-Mekdad, president of Zahraa Association for Orphans, was arrested at home in April 2011 by a group of 50-60 people wearing civilian clothes and masks. He was still in detention at the time of the report.

Al-Mekdad was stripped naked and beaten, and then put in pitch-dark prison cell, where he was continually tortured, the report says. According to al-Mekdad, he was hung head down, beaten for hours, and had sensitive body parts exposed to electric shock.Prince Nasser Bin Hamad came to interrogate al-Mekdad and other detainees, making sure they recognized him before their questioning, the report says. On learning that al-Mekdad took part in a Safriya protest march in front of the Bahraini king’s palace, where some people shouted “Down with King Hamad,” the prince began beating him.Prince Nasser then supervised the torture in person, Al-Mekdad said at the February 2012 court trial according to the report. There he showed more than 50 electric shock traces on his body and told the judge he was tortured by a drill piercing his leg and humiliated by spitting in his mouth. Prince Nasser forced al-Mekdad to kiss pictures of the royal family in between the torture sessions.None of these words were taken down in the court, and the judge asked al-Mekdad to remain silent, saying that “this court has its respect,” the report states.Tortured for SMSThis is what happens in Bahrain if the king’s son finds a suspicious SMS in your phone, RT’s Kevorkova said, citing the story of the man speaking on condition of anonymity.According to the report, the man was stopped at a checkpoint near Safriya Palace in May 2011 while driving in a car with his wife and children. He recognized one of the patrolmen as Prince Khalid Bin Hamad. Unsatisfied with the fact that nothing was found in the car, the prince started searching through text messages on the man’s phone, and found an old SMS on the Pearl Roundabout demonstration. The prince then ordered the man’s brother be called to take the woman and children home, but on his arrival both were arrested, the report says. They were thrown to the ground, beaten and forced “to repeat the royal greeting,” with Khalid Bin Hamad ordering to beat them again for every royal family member’s name they didn’t know.The men were also forced to eat hot chili peppers and insult some opposition figures. The reports states that the police has also started beating the men on coming to the scene.Both were sentenced to 60 days in prison and dismissed from their jobs.Another man cited in the report was also arrested at a checkpoint after policemen noticed his car was parked near Pearl Roundabout and took the car’s number down. For that he was put in al-Qalaa prison and tortured daily with the use of special devices and techniques, including chaining, limb piercing and beating with clubs, the report claims. He was also deprived of sleep and his religious practices, the report adds. Prince Nasser Bin Hamad allegedly supervised the man’s torture, which was carried out by foreigners. “This is not Iran, we came to you from Iraq, and we are Saddamists,” they shouted as they tortured him, according to the report.The man was cited as saying that his friend Karim Fakhrawi, who was also detained, died during one such torture session.RT sent a letter to Bahraini Information Affairs Authority last week asking for the comment on the report, but has so far not received an answer.

RT's Nadezhda Kevorkova contributed to this report