British human rights campaign group Amnesty International has condemned a Bahraini court’s decision to keep two former teachers’ leaders in prison only for calling for strikes in suppport of pro-democracy protesters.
Amnesty said the Sunday hearing into the cases of former leaders of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association Mahdi Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman and the appeal court’s subsequent guilty verdict against the two was a “nightmare”. The court gave Abu Dheeb five years in prison while al-Salman was handed a six-month sentence reduced from ten years and three years in jail, respectively. The two were arrested and imprisoned in early 2011 for calling for a teachers’ strike in the tiny Persian Gulf island whose rulers are leading a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters calling for an elected government. Abu Dheeb has already spent some 18 months behind the bars while al-Salman was in prison for five and a half months before being released on bail. The two were tortured and held in solitary confinement and forced to sign confessions that they did not even read. The two who were the former president and vice president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association, respectively, were handed the initial prison sentences by a military court, which accused them of “inciting hatred of the regime” and “attempting to overthrow the ruling system by force.” Amnesty said they have never supported violence describing them as prisoners of conscience as no evidence of the alleged charges was presented during their trials. “With this guilty verdict, Bahrain’s justice system has added to a growing list of outrageous injustices,” Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther said.