Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Al Jazeera International's Interview with a Detainee's Mother

Yousef Ahmed Khalifa: Sentenced to 15 years in prison

Students went to university on the morning of March 13 with the news that protesters who tried to block roads in the financial harbour, near to Pearl roundabout, had come under attack. Some of the students organised a march on campus in solidarity with the protesters.

Hundreds of students attended, including 20-year-old banking student Yousef.

That day, police were eerily absent from streets around the country. Instead, what witnesses say, were "plainclothed thugs out to create havoc".

One of Yousef's friends said that dozens of "thugs" entered the campus, and they wondered how they had passed security. Immediately, the thugs began attacking cars as well as the students taking part in the march - and others.

Horrific video emerged of students fleeing people attacking the campus, including one of a group of medics attacked by a charging man carrying a club. His friend said that Yousef sought cover in the business college while the attack took place.

In the previous six months, Yousef had been preoccupied with his ill father. His father had a brain tumour diagnosed in late 2010. According to his mother, Rabah Mustafa, Yousef would not hang out with his friends at night so he could spend time with his father. He had accompanied his father to Jordan to receive treatment in April.

Before and after that time, he was summoned for questioning by the administration. His friend said that Yousef was asked to identify specific people who attended the march before the attack.

Weeks after his father's operation, police came to the family home on April 26 to arrest Yousef. His mother pleaded with the police not to beat her only son. Despite that, she said, they grabbed him by his then-long hair and spat on his face.

According to his mother, Yousef later told her that one of the interrogators had a Saudi accent, and threatened to take him to Saudi where he would be sentenced to death.

"Do you want to know what they did to him?" the mother asked, quivering with anger. She remained silent for a moment before shouting out: "They stuck a piece of wood up his ass." The rest of the family in the room bowed their head, distressed by the thought.

On October 3, the day of Yousef's trial, Rabah prepared her son's bedroom and made a cake, expecting him to be released that day. She couldn't believe that Yousef and eight other students were sentenced to 15 years each - with one handed 18 years jail time.

Upon hearing the verdict in the courtroom, Rabah stood up and shouted at the judge: "Why 15 years? Why not give them 20 or 25 years? Let them get married in prison, you've ruined their life." She was then thrown out of the court.

The group of students was also collectively fined the equivalent of around one million dollars for the damages to the university, she said.

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