WASHINGTON, DC – July 2, 2013 – On Monday, Bahrain’s highest court upheld the convictions of Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman, leaders of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA) who were sentenced to prison in 2011 for participating in peaceful protests. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) condemns the court’s decision and calls for Abu Dheeb to be immediately released and for Jalila al-Salman’s conviction to be annulled.
In 2011, Al-Salman, Abu Dheeb, and other members of the BTA called upon educators to go on strike in order to draw attention to the need for political reform and improvements to Bahrain’s education system. Following the strike, nearly 9,000 educators held a public demonstration—the largest protest by educators in Bahrain’s history. Following the protest, Abu Dheeb and Al-Salman were dismissed from their teaching positions, arrested on charges of “inciting hatred of the regime” and “attempting to overthrow the government by force,” tortured, and sentenced to prison. Although Al-Salman was released in 2012 after serving a reduced prison sentence, Abu Dheeb will remain in prison until 2015.
“In typical fashion, the Government of Bahrain has upheld the convictions of yet two more human rights defenders based on nothing more than a desire to silence its critics,” said ADHRB Director Husain Abdulla. “There is no evidence that either of these individuals used or advocated for the use of violence, but there is ample evidence that the Government of Bahrain lacks respect for the rule of law. This case is just one of many examples.”
In response to the verdict, Al-Salman expressed frustration and dismay. “I honestly did not expect this verdict,” Al-Salman said. “I thought the Cassation court might send the cases back to the highest appeals court for review due to a lack of due process throughout the trials, but I did not expect the verdict to be upheld. The authorities in Bahrain want to close our file so it cannot be used as a talking point by the opposition or NGOs. Once the file has been closed there is very little that can be done.”
Please click here for a PDF of this statement.
الرجاء الضغط هنا لقراءة هذه الرسالة باللغة العربي
UPDATE (7/11/2013): In a follow-up conversation with her lawyer, Jalila al-Salman was informed that last week’s verdict only applied to a motion filed on behalf of Mahdi Abu Dheeb for his immediate release, which was denied. An appeal filed by Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi Abu Dheeb challenging their original convictions has yet to be decided.