Husain Barakat, 48, died after contracting the virus at Jau prison, where an outbreak of coronavirus disease began in March.
A political prisoner serving a life sentence in Bahrain has died after contracting COVID-19, the interior minister and activists said Wednesday, while the Gulf state is fighting a growing infection.
Bahrain has come under pressure from human rights organizations over prison conditions, including overcrowding, poor sanitation and lack of medical care.
Since the March outbreak of the disease in Bahrain’s main prison, Jau, families have been holding small protests demanding the release of political prisoners and better conditions. There was a violent confrontation between guards and prisoners in April after the prisoners protested against the conditions.
On Wednesday, the interior minister said Husain Barakat, 48, who had been completely vaccinated against COVID-19 on March, had died after being infected with the virus.
He was taken from prison to Salmaniya hospital on 29 May. Barakat’s family said he had been put on a fan in an ICU unit.
The Britain-based human rights group, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (IBRD), said Barakat was a political prisoner detained in Jau.
Barakat was sentenced in 2018, along with 53 other people, to life in prison in a mass trial of 138 defendants accused by the authorities of belonging to a “terror” cell, BIRD said.
He was also stripped of his citizenship, which was later restored by royal decree, BIRD said.
His son was also arrested at age 16, and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The interior minister said Barakat had received regular medical assistance and phone calls while he was in prison.
Bahraini human rights activist Maryam Khawaja, whose father is incarcerated in Jau, said Barakat told his wife during his last phone call that he could not breathe and that he was “going to die.”
It is the prison in which he is fathered https://t.co/H8KHlLF2L7
– Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) June 9, 2021
The Euro-Mediterranean Monitor in the Gulf has called for an immediate and independent investigation into the incident.
“Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Bahrain’s prisons, and despite requests by the authorities to make more serious efforts to stop the spread of the virus among detainees, health care has not been provided for detainees,” preventive measures in prisons have not been put in place, and authorities have continued the policy of deliberate medical malpractice, ”the monitor said on Twitter.
Since the outbreak of the virus #corona in prison in #i dui mariDespite all calls on the authorities to make more serious efforts to stop the spread of the virus among detainees, the authorities have not provided health care for detainees, have not applied preventive measures in prison as necessary, and have continued the policy of deliberate medical negligence.
– Euro Med Monitor in Golfu (@euromedgulf) June 9, 2021
The Bahraini opposition group dissolved al-Wefaq has demanded the release of prisoners of conscience since the beginning of the pandemic.
Bahrain has released some prisoners considered at risk, such as pregnant women, in response to the pandemic.
New cases of COVID-19 each day grew to record highs in mid-to-late May, reaching more than 3,000 new cases per day, after being below 200 a day at the end of last year. Bahrain on Tuesday said 1,279 new cases had been registered, with 18 deaths.
The Bahraini government, which refuses to torture in prisons, has said it offers vaccinations to all prisoners and that appropriate measures have been taken to treat COVID-19 outbreaks.