An 11-year-old boy detained for nearly a month in Bahrain has described his time in custody to Al Jazeera, saying that police accused him of taking part in violent protests.
Ali Hasan was arrested last month, and was released without bail on Monday, though his trial is set to continue on June 20.
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, he said he was arrested the day after protesters blocked off a street in Bilad al-Qadeem, his neighbourhood in Manama.
“It was Saturday, and we were playing,” he said. “They came and blocked the street, and then left, so we went back out and played a game, and then some civilians came and took pictures of us. The next day we went to play on the high street, and then a police patrol came and chased us.”
Hasan was chased down and arrested, and the police accused him of “burning tyres and being violent,” he said.
A ‘political prisoner’
He still faces charges of “joining an illegal gathering” and other claims related to the ongoing unrest in the troubled Gulf nation. One of his lawyers, Shahzlan Khamis, described him as a political prisoner.
“The juvenile in question was not only in custody for participating in an illegal gathering, but for his involvement in burning tyres and road blocks“
– Abdul Aziz Al Khalifa,
Bahrain’s chief prosecutor for juveniles, Noura Al-Khalifa, said in a statement on Sunday that Hasan was arrested on May 14 while blocking a street outside Manama with garbage containers and wood planks.
She said he pleaded guilty, admitting that he blocked the road repeatedly after police would clear the blockade, and that he was arrested on his third attempt to shut the road. She claimed he confessed to have done that after a man accused of stirring trouble gave him and some of his friends three dinars, or about $8.
Abdul Aziz Al Khalifa, of the Bahrain Information Affairs Authority, told Al Jazeera that it was “incorrect” to believe Hasan was merely playing.
“The juvenile in question was not only in custody for participating in an illegal gathering, but for his involvement in burning tyres and road blocks,” he said. “We have an obligation to the rest of the population of Bahrain to preserve law and order.”
When questioned over the potential length of sentence Hasan may have to serve, Khalifa was unable to provide a figure, only saying the child would be given “a sentence of a juvenile.”
Hasan was forced to take his school exams while in custody. Rights groups say he is one of the youngest people to be detained since an ongoing pro-democracy uprising began in February 2011.
The BCHR also reported on the detention of two 13-year-old boys by police at the end of April.