Hundreds mourn 24-year-old Bahraini ex-prisoner 'killed by medical negligence'

Hundreds mourn 24-year-old Bahraini political prisoner 'killed by medical negligence'
2 min read
04 February, 2020
Sayed Kadhem Abbas, 24, died on Monday from brain cancer which human rights groups say went untreated for years during his three-year stint in notorious Jau prison on political charges.
Mourners raised pictures of Sayed Kadhem Abbas, calling him a martyr [Twitter]
Hundreds took to the streets of Bahrain on Monday to mourn 24-year-old former political prisoner Sayed Kadhem Abbas, who died from brain cancer which human rights groups attribute to systemic medical negligence during his three-year detention in the kingdom’s notorious Jau prison.

Photos circulating on social media showed huge crowds of people gathering for Abbas' funeral procession in the Al-Sahla area of the Gulf nation, where a heavy security presence was also deployed.

Hundreds can be seen raising photographs of Abbas calling him a martyr.

According to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Abbas had no known health conditions before his arrest and detention in 2015 on charges of attending an "unlawful gathering" and assaulting the security officer who arrested him. His initial 10-year sentence was reduced to five on appeal.

UN experts penned a letter to Bahraini authorities in September 2019 criticising the lack of medical care at the Jau facility. They pointed out that Abbas had suffered three years of serious health issues, including severe headaches, swelling to his face, memory loss, inability to stand, continuous vomiting, and extreme weight loss.

Despite numerous complaints by Abbas and his family and several health assessments, Abbas’ brain tumour was not diagnosed until 2018.

After finally receiving surgery in June 2018, Abbas' symptoms eased but he lost his vision.

The doctor informed Abbas' family that Abbas required radiation therapy, but his transfer to the hospital was allegedly delayed. 

In July 2018, he was temporarily released on humanitarian grounds and travelled abroad for medical treatment. He returned to Bahrain in November 2018 but his cancer was terminal.

Husain Abdulla, Executive Director at Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) said in a statement: "The death of this young man is a tragic reminder that political prisoners in Bahrain face a systematic denial of medical treatment by authorities at Jau Prison." 

"The full extent of abuses in Bahrain's prison remains in the dark as Bahrain continues to deny independent experts access to the country, including the UN Special Rapporteurs," he added.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD, also commented calling the tragedy "a wakeup call to Bahrain’s allies".

"Without political pressure, prisoners will continue to suffer and Kadhem’s tragic death will not be the last," he added. 

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