Fears grow for Ebtisam al-Saegh, who was detained in raid following tweet criticising kingdom’s ruler and security forces
Bahrain has rearrested a prominent human rights advocate who has accused the country’s security services of torturing and sexually assaulting her during her previous arrest in May.
Ebtisam al-Saegh, who works for Salam for Human Rights and Democracy, was detained during a night-time raid on Monday by about 25 security officers after she tweeted criticism of the country’s ruler and security forces, according to Amnesty International.
Al-Saegh’s arrest comes amid a renewed crackdown on dissent in Bahrain, which is one of four countries behind the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.
Her rearrest has raised concern among human rights groups, including Amnesty, that she is at risk of torture.
Samah Hadid, director for Campaigns at Amnesty International in the Middle East, said: “The Bahraini authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Ebtisam al-Saegh, whose only crime is speaking up against a government committed to crushing all forms of dissent.
“We are deeply concerned about Ebtisam’s wellbeing. When she was arrested in May 2017, she was beaten and sexually assaulted by members of the Bahraini National Security Agency. Bahraini authorities have failed to investigate those claims and we fear that she is at high risk of torture as long as she remains in custody.”
In her account of her previous arrest in May, Al-Saegh told how she had been summoned to the National Security Agency offices and on arrival she was immediately blindfolded, before being sexually assaulted and beaten.
“They beat me on my nose and they kicked me in the stomach, knowing that I had undergone surgery on my nose and that I was suffering from my colon,” she told Amnesty.
“I could hear an electric device next to me, which was to scare me. I was made to stand up for most of the time, except for 10 minutes when they wanted to eat something.
“I fainted twice and was woken up with cold water thrown on me. They sat me on a chair only for a few seconds while still interrogating me. I was threatened that they would harm my family and that they would bring my husband and torture and electrocute him.
“The men told me ‘no one can protect you’. They took away my humanity, I was weak prey to them.”
During her interrogation, Al-Saegh was questioned about Diraz, where security forces clashed with demonstrators on 23 May, killing five people, and about other human rights defenders she knew, as well as about her participation at the UN human rights council in Geneva last March, where she spoke out about violations in Bahrain.