August 11, 2011—Education International (EI) has issued a new appeal to Bahraini authorities to release Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, vice-president and president of the Bahraini Teachers Association (BTA) arrested along with several other board members of the BTA. EI issued a first Urgent Action Appeal in April 2011. This second appeal is launched because the situation of human and trade union rights in the country remains critical.
||Bahraini citizens protest in Manama. Photo courtesy of EI
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Re-elected EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen has continued to express concern over their detention for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly and has urged the government to immediately release them and to hold to account those responsible for their arrest and possible abuse.
Van Leeuwen said: “Jalila and Mahdi were arrested after calling on teachers and employees of the Ministry of Education to go on strike. Amnesty International has concluded that 'they are likely to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association. and assembly as leading members of the BTA.' I urge the government to release both teacher unionists immediately and unconditionally. I also urge the authorities to protect them from torture and other ill treatment and immediately set up an impartial and public investigation that brings to justice those found responsible for what has happened to them.”
Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, together with several other board members of the BTA, were arrested in March and April 2011. While their colleagues were released, they were brought to trial before the National Safety Court of First Instance (a military court) on June 15 on charges which include "inciting hatred toward the regime," "calling to overthrow and change the regime by force," "calling on parents not to send their children to school," and "calling on teachers to stop working and participate in strikes and demonstrations." After further hearings on June 22 and 29, their trial was transferred to a civilian court and postponed until further notice.
Jalila al-Salman's house in Manama was raided on March 29 by more than 40 security officers. She was reportedly taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate in Manama, where she remained for about a week, during which she was reportedly beaten, including with objects, and held in solitary confinement. She is believed to have been transferred to the custody of the military and held there for around two months, before being transferred again to a detention center in 'Issa Town in Bahrain, where she is currently held. Jalila al-Salman's family were not aware of her whereabouts until soon after her transfer to the detention center in 'Issa Town and have only been allowed to see her there on two occasions. The second of these visits was on July 16 and was under very strict surveillance.
Amnesty International has reviewed statements issued by the BTA. One of them, published on March 13, called on teachers and employees of the Ministry of Education to go on strike, and on parents not to take their children to school during large-scale demonstrations in Bahrain.
Amnesty International has also listened to speeches delivered by Mahdi Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb that made similar appeals. It has, however, seen no evidence that either of them advocated violence of any kind in these or other activities. Consequently, although the organization does not have the full details of the evidence presented so far in the trial, it believes that they are likely to be prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly as leading members of the BTA.
Cross-posted from EI website, August 11, 2011. EI represents 30 million education employees in about 400 organizations in 173 countries and territories.