Refugee calls on Huddersfield University to end teaching at centre in Bahrain amid torture claims

A refugee granted asylum in Britain is calling on Huddersfield University to end a course teaching police students at a centre in Bahrain where he says he was tortured.

The University of Huddersfield.

The pro-democracy activist fled to Britain almost two years ago after prolonged interrogation at the country’s Royal Academy of Policing, which it’s claimed has been used to extract confessions out of detainees since 2015.

The centre is next door to Jaw Prison in the tiny Gulf state where inmates have told how they were taken to Building 15 in preparation for their ordeal across the road.

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Ten have spoken of prolonged torture treatment which included electric shocks, beatings, sexual assault and hanging by the arms.

‘For 12 continuous nights I was interrogated,’ said the refugee, who last month was granted asylum in Britain and is an engineering student at a UK university. ‘I was taken from the cell at night to be questioned in the Royal Academy of Policing. I was getting only 4 to 5 hours sleep each day and was then interrogated all night. I was exhausted and disorientated.’

The Shia Muslim, who is aged in his 20s and does not want to be named for fear of reprisals against his family in Bahrain, was arrested after joining street sit-ins in support of Sheikh Isa Qassim, a cleric who had been targeted by the authorities.

He fled the country in June 2018 after being released on bail following a mass trial involving 171 defendants, and after eight months behind bars which included a hunger strike and solitary confinement.

In February 2019 he was sentenced to 10 years in his absence for illegal gathering and damaging public property.

Huddersfield University has so far resisted calls to pull out of Manama from The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and end the arrangement which has netted it more than £1million.

The course, inaugurated by the university’s then-chancellor, Prince Andrew, in April 2018, includes modules on forensics, cybercrime and terrorism.

Earlier this year Huddersfield’s vice-chancellor Bob Cryan rejected a call to drop the course saying it was ‘in line with the mission advocated by the UK government’s Department of International Trade’.

This despite a 2011 report accepted by the British government that said Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior was implicated in the ‘systematic torture’ of detainees in its custody.

The refugee student said: "I was shocked to learn that a British university is training officers at the very institution that I and many others were brutally tortured and abused. However, to see the University of Huddersfield obstinately defend its course despite abundant evidence of the Academy’s abusive nature is truly repugnant.

‘When I became a student in the UK, I believed British universities to be prestigious institutions protecting and promoting human rights. However, it appears the management at the University of Huddersfield have abandoned these values in the pursuit of profit.'

The Huddersfield Students Union has passed a motion condemning ties to the ‘Torture Hub’ in Bahrain and a student panel is to vote on whether the union should adopt it.

One student at Huddersfield is a pro-democracy activist granted asylum in Britain in September 2018 after a judge heard his claims of torture at the hands of Bahraini authorities and said it would be unsafe for him to be sent back.

Ahmed Al Qasseb, 23, says he was tortured at the Gudaibiya police station in Manama after attending pro-democracy demonstrations during the aftermath of the Arab Spring which swept through the region in 2011.

The Business Studies student – who was once shot by Bahrain police as he fled a protest - has submitted a letter to the head of Huddersfield Student Union detailing what happened to him.

Ahmed said: “As a torture survivor and a student at Huddersfield University, I am appalled that the University is maintaining the course despite receiving first hand testimony from victims directly implicating their business partner in horrific, systematic torture and ill treatment.

‘Having escaped persecution in my homeland, I am greatly saddened to discover that my own university is providing training to the very police force responsible for the abuses I and so many other Bahrainis have suffered for speaking out against dictatorship.’

He called on the university’s Emeritus Chancellor, Sir Patrick Stewart, to speak out against what the university is doing.

According to the university’s website, the Star Trek actor’s ‘many involvements include Amnesty International and he is a frequent public speaker in favour of its goals in the field of human rights.’