Abduljalil Alsingace is a blogger and human rights defender who was arrested shortly after pro-reform protests erupted in Bahrain in February 2011 and sentenced to life in prison in June of that year. An independent inquiry found that prison authorities had tortured him, and his family says he continues to be denied medical treatment.
Alsingace was among a number of high-profile government critics arrested as the government renewed its crackdown on dissent after pro-reform protests in February 2011. He was arrested on March 17, 2011, according to Al-Jazeera and the London-based Bahraini human rights organization Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.
On June 22, 2011, a military court sentenced Alsingace to life imprisonment for "plotting to topple the monarchy," according to the official Bahrain News Agency. In all, 21 bloggers, human rights activists, and members of the political opposition were found guilty on similar charges and handed lengthy sentences, the news agency reported.
On his blog, Al-Faseela (Sapling), Alsingace wrote critically about human rights violations, sectarian discrimination, and repression of the political opposition. He also monitored human rights for the Shia-dominated opposition Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy. He was first arrested on anti-state conspiracy charges in August 2010, according to The Guardian, as part of widespread reprisals against political dissidents, but was released in February 2011 as part of a government effort to appease a then-nascent protest movement, according to PEN America.
On September 4, 2012, the High Court of Appeal upheld Alsingace’s conviction and life sentence, along with those of his co-defendants, according to the BBC. Four months later, on January 7, 2013, the Court of Cassation, the highest court in the country, also upheld the sentences.
In 2015-2016, Alsingace refused solid food for 313 days to protest the conditions at Jaw Prison, where he is being held, according to Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain.
In November 2015, Alsingace was temporarily released to allow him to attend his mother’s funeral.
A family member, who asked for anonymity for fear of retribution, told CPJ in October 2016 that Alsingace was not receiving adequate medical care, including for injuries suffered during torture. According to findings by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, Alsingace was "sexually molested with a finger thrust into his anus" and repeatedly beaten with fists and batons. One officer placed a pistol in his mouth and said, "I wish I could empty it in your head." Security forces threatened to rape his daughter, the inquiry found. The commission was established by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in June 2011 to investigate the 2011 protest movement and subsequent crackdown, including allegations of abuse of prisoners such as Alsingace. Its findings and recommendations, based on interviews with inmates, officials, witnesses, and human rights defenders, were officially endorsed by King Hamad in November 2011.
In March 2017, Alsingace was treated for severe dehydration at a military hospital, according to PEN International and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. The rights groups added that authorities prevented Alsingace from attending a medical appointment that month after he refused to go to the examination in a prison uniform and handcuffs.
A family member told CPJ in late 2018 that authorities refused Alsingace visits as well as access to medical treatment, toiletries, and hygienic products, including caps for his crutches. (In September 2020, Alsingace was finally given caps but they broke within a week, the family member told CPJ that same month.) The family member said Alsingace fainted from vertigo in October 2018 but that authorities still refused to transfer him to a prison clinic.
In August 2019, Alsingace began suffering chest pain, which spread to his shoulder and hand and he also experienced shaking in his left hand, the family member told CPJ in September 2019. According to the family member, Jaw Prison’s doctor told him that he had a serious heart problem. As of late 2019, he was scheduled for an appointment with a heart specialist at a military hospital, but authorities refused to take him because he would not report to the hospital in his prison uniform, the family member said. In 2020, the family member told CPJ that the denial of care for the journalist’s heart issues continued.
Alsingace has had a similar denial of care for bone pain. In 2019, he had an appointment with a bone specialist but was not allowed to go because guards refused to let him unless he wore arm and leg shackles, despite needing crutches to walk. In February 2020, Alsingace had an appointment with a bone specialist but was again not allowed to see the doctor for the same reason, the family member said.
CPJ was unable to determine if Alsingace still suffered from chest pain and bone pain as of late 2021, though his family member said that he continued to be denied visits with medical specialists, without specifying which kind.
The journalist has additional health issues; in 2020 the family member said he had slipped vertebrae in his neck and lower back and a torn shoulder muscle, ailments for which he was denied access to medicine or visits to a variety of specialists, the family member said. In September 2021, Alsingace continued to be denied medication and specialized treatment for his shoulder, neck, and back injuries, the relative said.
The relative also said that in 2020 Alsingace was experiencing vertigo and dizziness, and that a prison doctor had promised that he would receive a brain scan to determine appropriate treatment, but had not given Alsingace a date for an appointment; the family member said that as of 2021 he had still not received an MRI or a CT scan.
The family member said that as of late 2021, Alsingace was on hunger strike after authorities confiscated his research materials in April 2021 and refused his repeated demands to return them. According to news reports, he had been hospitalized during the strike.
In September 2021, CPJ emailed the Bahrain Ministry of Interior’s media center asking for comment about the health and treatment behind bars of Alsingace and other imprisoned journalists but did not receive a response.