A detailed examination of Bahrain's arrest and treatment of the dissidents shows widespread and systematic abuse that raises questions about whether the country's Sunni Muslim government has crossed a line beyond which it can't restore social peace in the predominantly Shiite Muslim country.
Interviews and email exchanges with relatives of four of the jailed politicians yielded startlingly similar stories of dramatic and humiliating middle-of-the-night raids by 30 to 40 masked gunmen, followed by weeks of beatings and abuse in custody. None of the men has been charged with a crime.
The police often directed anti-Shiite slurs at the distraught families. There were neither warrants nor judicial procedures, and the arrested politicians were held in solitary confinement without access to family or lawyers.
Jawad Fairooz had a simple request for his captors as he descended the stairs to meet them from the upper floor of his well-appointed home. "Can I change my clothes?" he asked. It was out of the question.
His wife lost her composure. "Stop screaming or we'll take your kid," they responded, referring to her 17-year-old son, Amin.
"Where are you taking him?" she asked, referring to her husband. "We're going on a 'picnic,' " was the cynical reply. For how long? She asked. "It depends on how fast he cooperates."