Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is a human rights activist and co-founder of The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights who faces life in prison after an unfair trial before a military court in June 2011.
His crime? Being one of the leaders of popular and overwhelmingly peaceful anti-government protests in February and March 2011.
At the height of the so-called “Arab Spring” in early 2011, many thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets demanding change. Security forces reacted with a violent crackdown in which almost 50 people were killed and hundreds injured. Hundreds were arrested and tried before military courts. Many are still imprisoned.
Security forces detained Abdulhadi al-Khawaja in the middle of the night on April 9, 2011. He was beaten so brutally during and after his arrest that his jaw was broken. After several surgeries at the Bahrain Defence Force military hospital in al-Riffa’, he was returned to prison only to face further torture including the threat of sexual assault.
During their first visit in late 2011, Abdulhadi told his family “I really want to smile, but I can’t”. His face is now held together by 18 plates and 36 screws.
At trial, no evidence was ever presented that Abdulhadi had committed any recognizable crime or used or advocated violence. And yet, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.