November 5, 2012—Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman, the president and vice president of the Bahraini Teachers' Association, were sentenced to five and six months in prison after a court in Bahrain upheld their convictions last week.
|Mahdi Abu Dheeb, a teacher in Bahrain, was sentenced to five months in jail for exercising his freedom of expression. Photo: LabourStart
The two were arrested in 2011 after supporting calls for reform in Bahrain. Abu Dheeb has spent some 18 months in prison and al-Salman spent five and a half months in prison before being released on bail. Prior to that, they were held in solitary confinement, where they say they were subjected to torture or other ill-treatment and forced to sign “confessions” they did not even read.
They were brought to trial before the National Safety Court of First Instance (a military court) on June 15 on charges that included “inciting hatred toward the regime” and “calling to overthrow and change the regime by force.”
In September 2011, a military court convicted them of attempting to overthrow the ruling system by force and inciting hatred of the regime. Amnesty International concludes that it has ‘not seen any convincing evidence supporting such accusations, nor was there any such evidence presented at trial,’ and has adopted Madhdi and Jalila as prisoners of conscience.
“All these teachers did was to call for a strike in their role as trade union leaders—this is merely exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association and is certainly not a crime,” says Philip Luther, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa program director.
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry last year found that the authorities had grossly exaggerated, if not manufactured, many claims brought against thousands of ordinary people who had been caught up in the February 2011 protests.
Education International has issued a call for a large online campaign demanding the release of both Mahdi and Jalila.
Take action now. Urge Bahraini authorities to immediately release Mahdi, ensure that Jalila does not serve any of her remaining sentence and to drop all charges against them.