Dr. Al Ekri, aged 45, is a senior consultant pediatric orthopedic surgeon. He completed his postgraduate training in Dublin, Ireland (1999-2002) and has been working at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) for the last 20 years. He is the first sub specialized surgeon in pediatric orthopedic in Bahrain and has introduced many surgical techniques in this field. He also established his own successful private practice in 2004.
He is married to a consultant family physician, and has three children aged 16, 12 and 9.
Dr. Al Ekri is also well known for his voluntary, charity and humanitarian work:
- founder of the Cerebral Palsy Friendship Society in Bahrain (2007);
- founder and head of the medical committee of the Daih Organizations,
- honorable member of the Royal Charity Organization in Bahrain through which he provides free medical services to orphans and widows;
- volunteer providing surgical care for victims of the war on Ghaza (2008- 2009);
- member of Al Karama Center/ Bahrain Human Rights Society;
- member of Al Kawther Orphans Center.
Since the escalation of the events in Bahrain on 14th February, 2011, Dr Al Ekri showed an outstanding voluntary dedication to treat and look after the victims of the clashes without discrimination and helped to save many lives.
At the dawn of February 17, he witnessed the clamp down on protesters by the riot police at the Pearl Roundabout, since he was the doctor in charge of the medical tent. During that time, he helped evacuate horrified women and children along with the medical staff from the site, after which he headed to SMC to continue treating the casualties there.
Between 14th February and 17th March 2011, Dr. Al Ekri continued to carry out his regular duties and responsibilities towards his patients in addition to voluntary work treating injured protesters. He also witnessed the take over of the SMC on the morning of March 16 by the military and riot police.
After torture and detention over a nearly six month period, he was later charged in a military court and sentenced to 15 years in prison. The charges included:
- Unauthorized possession of weapons and ammunition;
- Enticing sectarian hatred;
- Colonizing the hospital;
- Attempts to occupy buildings by force;
- Discrimination in patients’ care;
- Dissemination of false news;
- Participation in unauthorized rallies and meetings;
- Inciting the overthrow of the regime ;
- Stealing medical equipments and medications.
Here is a written testimony that Doctors In Chains received directly from Dr Ali Al Ekri regarding his arrest and subsequent trial in the military court:
On March 17, 2011, and after three days of continuous hard work, I was abducted from the operation theater by armed, masked and unidentified military and riot police personnel without any arrest permit. I was dragged bare feet, handcuffed to the back, blindfolded, and in my surgical gown in a very inhumane way in front of my colleges and staff. The armed abductors broke in to my office where they started torturing me and confiscating my computer and belongings. Then they dragged me throughout the corridors of the hospital, and to the overnight stay doctors’ hostel looking for other colleagues to be arrested. Following that, they handed me to another masked, unidentified armed team that kidnapped me to a solitary confinement cell where I was interrogated and tortured physically and abused verbally, and kept for overnight without knowing where I am or contacting my family.
Solitary Cell Detention (two week period):
The next morning, I was taken in a private car blindfolded, handcuffed, and bare feet to unknown place and was seduced that I will be handed to the Saudi military officials for execution. Following a long drive full of humiliation and torture, I was handed to another team that received me with strong physical and verbal insults until being confined in a solitary cell for two weeks, during which I underwent several kinds of torture that included beating with cable wires, rubber hose, wooden sticks, kicks and punch and slaps mainly on the head and back with double slaps on the ears…etc. Also, they practiced psychological torture methods that include hearing the scream of others being tortured, bringing barking dogs, and threatening of attacking my family members in addition to acts of humiliation by making me mimic dogs, licking the ground and the bottom of their shoes and ingesting fecal matter. They also practiced sexual harassment in the form of threatening of rape, and trials of introducing water bottle at the bottom. I was also deprived from sleep and was aroused now and then by strong sounds or jugs of freezing water for about one week. In addition, I was prevented from praying, personal hygiene and continuously attacked in my religious beliefs and my professional ethics. I attempted several self inflected injuries by breaking my arms, banging my head and warned of attempting suicide to end the miserable experience I passed through. I started a hunger strike for one day but was forced to break it after a threat of forcing me to eat fecal matter again. Towards the end of the two weeks, I was interrogated for the first time without the presence of my lawyer despite my demand of having him around. During the interrogation, I was forced to give false confessions, make up scenarios of possessing weapons, running militias, occupying the hospital…etc. The interrogation was repeated the next day after warning me of further and more intense torture if I don’t cooperate and confess with what they claim. At this interrogation session, new interrogator joined who threatened to kill me with fire guns, and seduced me that he is a Saudi official and threatened me that he will take me to Saudi Arabia.
In the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID- Adleya four days) :
The next afternoon, I was dragged again bare feet, blindfolded and handcuffed to the back, with other detainees to unknown place, which I came to know later that it was the CID. During this long drive, we were subjected to physical insults and verbal humiliations. In the CID we were kept standing blindfolded, handcuffed, and facing the wall at the corridors of the drug unit that I knew so from the guards answering the phone. I was subjected to more intense torture and humiliation in the form of prolonged hours of standing, that extended up to 24 hours in continuity, deprived from sleep for about four days, and hanged by arms at the stair case edge. The torture included frequent attacks of boxing, kicking, slapping and beating by wooden sticks until losing consciousness. I lost consciousness about five times, sustained ear drum rupture, left sided rib fracture and cocegyeal bone fracture and bruises and swellings all over my body. I was taken at the second day for interrogation for about continuous seven hours in a very miserable situation, not able to stand and was forced to give farther false confessions under torture and threatening of pistol firing in to my head and of course in the absence of my lawyer. At the end of it, I was forced to sign many papers blindfolded not allowed to read it. Earlier, I was promised that in case of cooperation, I will not be tortured anymore and to have a meal and a sleep following the interrogation which did not happen. All through that night, I witnessed the suffering and the screaming of the other nearby detainees being tortured. The next day, I was handed over handcuffed, blindfolded and bare feet to another interrogator who identified himself as the military prosecutor without revealing his identity who basically copy pasted the same interrogation and started throwing unbelievable charges based on the false forced confessions. This session lasted for about six hours during which I was not able even to sit and was laying down on the ground in sever exhaustion and was handcuffed to the back and blindfolded. It was a miserable situation. I recalled that I requested the presence of my lawyer but the prosecutor started shouting at me and throwing offensive words towards me.
In the Temporary Detention (dry dock- for five months):
After that, I was taken to another unknown place and was told that I will be taken to the execution place. At the reception, I was handed to a team of police men that started torturing me right from the door steps in to the detention cell. That day, we were taken in groups for shaving our head and beard during which they took off the blindfold and starting beating us with their slippers while being shaved and forcing us to shout out saluting the king and the prime minister. The next morning, we were dragged in groups to the clinic for medical check during which we were abused physically and insulted verbally by the medical team along with the guards.
For the first five days in that place, I was subjected to more severe further more severe torture and insults and was hearing the screams of many detainees being tortured as well. I was forced to stand for long hours and was not allowed to see even the meal that was given to me, and was continuously blindfolded, and handcuffed to the back except at the meal time. I was forced along with the others to say bad things against the clerics and to solute the officials and the country leaders, and to say “my master” whenever requesting anything. Also, was forced to mimic animal sounds. Also, during this period, I was sleeping shivering on the ground without mattress, pillow or cover in a cold place in front of the air condition, and was awakened now and then by shoe kicks on my head, back and legs. Surprisingly, and calling for sympathy, I requested them to avoid kicking my swollen right thigh but they kept focusing on it to make it more painful. Also, I recall another incident that one of them stepped with his shoe on my head while sleeping and kept crushing my head to the ground. Another incident, I was suffering from a tight metal handcuff with a throbbing fingers when begged them to loosen it, they responded with further tightening of the cuffs and slaps to the head. We were allowed to go to the toilet three times a day following the meals during which they take us in groups make us to run and bang the walls and practice the double slaps on our ears whenever we request anything. At the first couple of weeks, I was still suffering from my injuries and fractures along with persisting vertigo but was fearful from requesting medical review because I know that whoever goes to the clinic gets further torture. I was shocked at a later date when I knew from newly joint detainee that two of the detainees who were with me in a nearby cell in the same ward passed away because of torture, and thanked god that I am still alive.
During the temporary detention period I was taken many times, handcuffed, blindfolded and under physical and verbal abuse, to the CID for further interrogations, during which I was subjected to more torture and forced for more false confessions. One day, I was taken alone to the military prosecutor office not for interrogation but simply for torture by group of high officers who intended to bring me on purpose for their satisfaction. At one time, we were taken as a group at night and kept for overnight at the CID drug unit corridors. The next morning, we were asked and for the first time to take a bath and gave some of us clothes of some other detainees, and were forced to sit in front of the cameras to repeat all the false confessions under threat of re torture if not obeying their commands. We were forced to listen to each confession and I witnessed the interruptions by the interrogator forcing each one to obey what he should confess on. This recording lasted for about eleven hours in continuity. At the end of the false confession, we were forced to admit wrong doings and apologize to the king and the government begging them forgiveness.
At the National Security Unit (three days):
Towards the end of April, I was taken along with three other colleagues also blindfolded and handcuffed to the back and under physical and verbal insults to an unknown place. We came later to know that it is the National Security Unit, during which I was kept in solitary cell under the ground, subjected to torture, fainted twice and witnessed torture and screaming of the others. I was interrogated individually and forced to confess that I have links with the Iranian embassy, and of possessing weapons. During the interrogations, which was held three times, I was threatened to be killed, raped, and more violent torture. Also, had other detainees brought close to me and physically tortured and asked to mimic animal sounds. Also, I was threatened with the electrical shocks that was kept close to my ears. During these three days, I was taken to the clinic for check up and during my physical assessment blindfolded and handcuffed, I was beaten and slapped and banged by the doctor and the guards and had offensive wording also by them. In addition, I witnessed hearing my colleagues tortured and insulted as well.
The Military Court:
June 6, 2011 (1st session):
On the morning of June 6, 2011 and about 4:00 am, we were taken in groups blindfolded, handcuffed and under physical and verbal insults to another detention center for few hours, then to a far place which we realize after that it was the military court. We were packed in a small room for about an hour, then made to stand under the sun for another hour. Then, immediately had our handcuffs and blinds off and pushed in to the court cage. It was the first time for me to see my father and my wife sitting at the far side of the court hall after almost three months of detention. It also was the first time to meet my lawyer who was trying to reach me through many attempts. Following a short court session, we were allowed to meet with our family members and lawyers for the first time and for ten minutes only. It was a very painful and emotional moments to all of us. Following that, we were dragged again handcuffed and blindfolded back to the detention.
June 13, 2011 (2nd session):
At that morning, also, we were taken in the same way and passed through the same experience as the first session. The judge started to list the charges and the names and asked us to state guilty or not plea. I was shocked when I heard the charges for the first time, which did not come close to those listed during the interrogation and of course can’t be by any mean believed to be committed by medics. When he stated my name, I shouted out “not guilty and all my confessions obtained under severe physical and psychological torture”. The military judge shouted back at me and warned the others if any one speaks any word other than “guilty or not” will be punished with further consequences. In addition, two of my female colleagues also stated that their confessions were obtained under torture, and one of them was ordered out of the court. Following the court session, we were taken back blindfolded , and handcuffed tightly to the extent requesting the military police to loosen it, but on the contrary he made it tighter.
Subsequent Court Sessions:
All through the subsequent court sessions which included the hearing of the witnesses, I requested the judge many times and through the lawyer to have a chance to give my testimony or comments but never been allowed. I noticed also that all the lawyers were never allowed to question the witnesses freely. Also, there were many requests put to the military judge which he never fulfill, e.g. the judge refused a request by the lawyer for an independent medical checkup for me and some other detainees.
In summary, it has been an awful and painful experience that I and my family passed through right through the abduction, passing through the torture and the interrogations, ending with the unfair and politicized trial with a harsh sentences simply because I am one of those witnessed and disclosed the crimes and the atrocities committed against the peaceful protesters. Now and after being released on bail, I am a waiting the appeal session which I believe won’t make a much difference as the politics not the judge have the say. I request the international organizations, media, and governments to intervene as I believe that the medics are being used as a political paper.”
On 14th June Dr Al Ekri had his sentenced reduced to 5 years in prison following an appeal hearing. This is unacceptable for a doctor who has done nothing wrong and who has been brutally tortured. His sentence should have been quashed along with his colleagues. His final appeal was reject on 1st October and he was arrested and taken back to jail to complete his sentence. Having already served 6 months he has another 4.5 years left remaining.
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You can also see Dr Al Ekri’s his wife (note the black eyes after being beaten also) in this interview here:
This is an interview Dr Al Ekri did for Al Jazeera at the time of the unrest. It is suspected that this is why he has been singled out for the most severe punishment and why his sentence has not been quashed with some of the others.
You may also read Dr Bassim Dhaif’s testimony here.
There is also an Arabic translation of Dr Ali Al Ekri’s testimony here.