Convictions and sentences against two former leaders of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association must be quashed, Amnesty International urged ahead of the final verdict in their trial this weekend.
Teachers Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb face three and 10 years in prison, respectively, if the court upholds their convictions and sentences on 21 October. Abu Dheeb is already serving his sentence while al-Salman was previously released on bail.
After calling for a teachers’ strike in early 2011 to support Bahraini protesters’ calls for reform, the two were arrested and initially tried before a military court. They were later held in solitary confinement, where Abu Dheeb and al-Salman were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment and they said they were forced to sign “confessions” that they did not even read.
Amnesty International has campaigned extensively on their cases and has adopted Abu Dheeb as a prisoner of conscience. The organization would consider al-Salman to be a prisoner of conscience if she too ends up behind bars.
“The cases of Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb are two more examples of Bahraini authorities’ double-speak over the course of the last year and a half – claiming reform while suppressing,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“As well as teachers like them, medics, human rights defenders and activists are currently behind bars for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. This must come to an end immediately, and the Bahraini authorities must quash their convictions and release all prisoners of conscience.”
Al-Salman and Abu Dheeb face a range of charges including attempting to overthrow the ruling system by force and inciting hatred of the regime. Neither of them advocated violence during the protests and Amnesty International has not seen any convincing evidence supporting such accusations, nor was there any such evidence presented at trial.
Al-Salman made a recent video appeal to Amnesty International supporters around the world – which could be one of her last chances to speak to the outside world before being locked up. In the video she describes her treatment in detention in chilling detail.
“I was in solitary confinement for 18 days. They put me in a freezer for eight days. I was denied sleeping, eating, drinking, using the toilet, praying… They would come each night, in the middle of the night, with that black hose to beat me,” al-Salman said.
Amnesty International urges the Bahraini authorities to fully investigate the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in custody, make the results public, and hold those responsible to account.