Another Death in Bahrain Raises Accusations of Foul Play

Yesterday morning, 22 year old Abdullah Al Ajooz died in Nuwaidrat. The Ministry of the Interior reported that he fell when he tried to flee the scene of the arrest. Abdullah was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to life in prison after being accused of being involved in terrorist activities that included the injuring of three policemen. He escaped from the Dry Docks in 2016.  As is usual, the MOI did not feel it necessary to provide much detail,  leaving people to speculate as the actual cause of Abdullah’s death. It is important to note that Abdullah is the 4th escaped prisoner to have been killed after coming into contact with the MOI. The other three were allegedly killed at sea in suspicious circumstances. As many Bahrainis know, it is important always to question the official narrative in Bahrain, as the MOI have previously lied about systematic torture. This is not to say that the MOI do not to tell the truth, but there is little evidence to suggest there has been a change in policing or political culture. It is therefore somewhat perverse then to not interrogate the official narrative (unless of course you, like my Twitter trolls, take pleasure in the deaths of people).

Abdullah’s Death

Initial reports stated that Abdullah had been shot, with his aunt being recorded saying he had bullet wounds in the head and chest. This story seemed very unlikely when images of the body revealed no visible bullet wounds. From the images of his body though, there is clear head trauma on the front right hand side.

The below photos of the building show that he fellow from a relatively low height. The shrine on the ground is where the body was found.

The images would suggest he landed on his head. Some have highlighted that the height is relatively low (certainly no more than 10m), and seem surprised by the nature of the traumatic injuries. Ebrahim Sharif,  a prominent political figure in Bahrain , who saw the body before burial, asked whether he should have fallen on his head, not hands or feet.

In the below tweet, Ebrahim Sharif also noted that an attempt to flee would be unusual if the house was surrounded.

Yet a fall of two stories, or less than two metres, perhaps surprisingly, frequently results in traumatic head injuries. According to one study, heights from falls less than 10 metres actual often result in severe head injuries.

Severe head injuries most frequently occurred in falls from heights below 10 m and above 25 m, whereas in the group that fell from 10 to 25 m, few head injuries were seen and they rarely were the cause of death. This finding might indicate that the falling position is changing during a fall, and the landing position is often head first in lower heights.

Thus it is possible that an accidental fall could result in such head injuries. The caving of the skull would suggest he landed on it, and in falls, usually blunt injuries are ‘planar impact’, confined to one plane of the body. Wrist injuries are also common.

This, of course, does not discount accusations that Abdullah was pushed, or killed beforehand and thrown off the edge. Furthermore, if he was fleeing, it is less likely he fell by accident but was facing the direction of travel, which would imply a different course of fall – perhaps one where he could have corrected his flight and not landed on his head. Indeed, similar accusations have been raised before about young men being thrown off building by the police in Bahrain. The distance of the body from the building is perhaps inconclusive, as most bodies falling from between 5 and 10m will land about 1m – 2m from the building. However, if he was fleeing, and jumped, you would expect that distance to be longer than one or 2m (unless it was a controlled drop, in which case you’d expect to land on your feet – not head).It is also not clear from the MOI narrative where they were during the ‘fleeing’. Were they chasing him on the roof? If they say he fell, presumably they saw what happened, or are claiming to know what happened? A helicopter was heard, is there footage thats shows what happened? Is there any evidence to suggest a chase or struggle on the roof, blood, etc?

Cause of Death

It is not clear either about the quality of autopsy given in Bahrain. The security forces pressured the family to conduct the burial as early as possible, just over 24 hours from the rough time of death (which was in the early hours of the 20th).Determining whether he was pushed is difficult, although some signs of a homicide as opposed to an accident may include fresh grab marks on the upper inner arms according to the aforementioned study (Indicating he was pushed). Were these looked for by who examined body? It is not clear whether the autopsy accounted for this. According to one study on Bahrain , ‘This problem has been exacerbated by the fact that autopsies are not generally practised in the country unless there is suspicion of crime’. As suspicion of a crime is dictated by the MOI, who state quite clearly that the suspect fell, then one has to wonder whether to independence of the coroner can be affected. The death of Yousef Mowali demonstrates the importance of independent forensic reports.

Police said they found Mowali’s body floating in the water on January 13 in the Amwaj area, not far from his family’s home in Muharraq. A state doctor reported the cause of death as drowning and ruled out signs of violence.However, Al Jazeera has exclusively obtained a report from a second autopsy performed by an independent forensic pathologist that concludes Mowali was electrically tortured and unconscious when he drowned.

Death certificates also appear to produce a lot of erroneous results, according to this 2010 study in Bahrain. Furthermore, in Bahrain, death certificates in such cases are highly inconsistent . In 2015, the public prosecutor said Death Certificates only reported the physiological cause of death (As in Case with Ahmed Ismail). However, in the recent cases of the three killed at sea, only the proximate cause (gunshot wounds) was identified. Thus there seems to be wild inconsistency in stating what was the proximate, or immediate and determining causes of death. Thus a death certificate will not necessarily be useful.

Whatever happened, it is certainly unusual that the MOI’s confrontation with another fugitive has resulted in yet another death, making this the 8th death this year. Either way, there are important questions to be asked about the nature of the autopsy, and the events that happened under the cover of darkness, at a time when the government clearly feel able to get away with murder and/or extrajudicial killing.

*Many thanks to Fatima Halwachi for her help for the photos and general information on the ground

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s