'Abused' Emirati prisoner pleads for help amid coronavirus threat
An Emirati woman detainee held at the notorious Al-Wathba Prison in Abu Dhabi has secretly recorded an audio message pleading with human rights groups to take up her case and reunite her with her daughter.
Amina Abdooli, who has been sentenced to five years in prison on charges of "supporting terrorism" due to social media posts relating to Syria, said in the recording that she had been on hunger strike since 23 February, in response to her alleged ill-treatment in prison.
She added that a new case has been raised against her due to previously leaked audio recordings made by her and other female prisoners, when they called on human rights groups to prevent ill-treatment by prison authorities.
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"My fellow prisoner Mariam Suleiman [Al-Balushi] and I were punished by being placed in solitary confinement until 12 March 2020. I am now in the second month of hunger strike and my health is being totally neglected," Abdooli said in the recording.
"They haven't even let me go to the clinic once and the effects of the hunger strike are clear on me. I am issuing a call for help to Amnesty International and all other human rights organisations to intervene to free us and reunite me with my five children, especially after this global corona pandemic has spread."
Abdooli's audio message was published on Twitter by the "We Record" account, which provides a platform for prisoners to document and highlight human rights violations.
Last month, UN human rights experts told Emirati authorities that they were extremely concerned about Abdooli's and Mariam Suleiman Al-Balushi's situation. Al-Balushi allegedly attempted suicide by cutting a vein in her hand in March.
Amina Abdooli, a 36-year-old teacher, was arrested in 2015 along with her sister and brother. Their father, Mohammed Abdooli, a retired colonel, died in 2013 fighting in Syria with anti-Assad rebels from the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham movement.
Amina's social media posts had eulogised her father without taking any political position.
In an earlier recording made in 2019, she called on UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed and Interior Minister Seif bin Zayed to improve her living conditions. She also requested a transfer to a prison in the emirate of Fujairah, so that she could be closer to her children.
The International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE) says that detainees are denied clean drinking water, served inadequate food, and kept in solitary confinement in Al-Wathba Prison. Torture and other abuses are also reportedly rampant.
There have been growing concerns about the welfare of prisoners throughout the Arab world amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to ill-treatment, prisoners are often held in crowded cells and with unsanitary conditions, allowing for the spread of diseases and infections.