By Andy Sambidge
Rights group reacts to court upholding sentences for two former teaching union leaders
Amnesty International has denounced a decision to uphold prison sentences against two former leaders of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association.
On Sunday, Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb was sentenced to five years in prison while Jalila al-Salman, who was not present in the courtroom, was handed a six-month sentence when an appeal court upheld guilty verdicts against them.
While the ruling reduced their sentences from ten years and three years respectively, family members immediately expressed their dismay, calling the ruling a “nightmare”.
Their lawyers have said they will appeal the decision before Bahrain’s Court of Cassation.
Philip Luther, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa director, said: “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.
“With this guilty verdict, Bahrain’s justice system has added to a growing list of outrageous injustices.
“Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally, and Jalila al-Salman must not be put behind bars - these convictions must be quashed as a matter of urgency.”
Following his arrest after calling for a teachers’ strike in early 2011, Abu Dheeb has already spent some 18 months in prison, while al-Salman spent five-and-a-half months in prison before being released on bail.
Amnesty said in a statement that it considers Abu Dheeb to be a prisoner of conscience and will grant the same status to al-Salman if she is returned to jail.
Abu Dheeb and al-Salman were initially sentenced before a military court last year for using their positions as vice-president and president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association to call for a strike by teachers, halting the educational process, and attempting to overthrow the ruling system by force.
Dear Phllip Dillusional of Amnesty
For a teacher to call for a country-wide strike is NOT freedom of expression. To halt the education for thousands of kids in Bahrain so that teachers can get on the political bandwagon is NOT freedom of association. Freedome of association is to call for a strike for improved wages and teaching conditions.
What the Bahraini courts did was justice whether you like it or not.
Teachers should be busy teaching kids how to solve for x when: (2x+1)(x-7).. rather than be screaming for strikes against a political stance.
If they feel pro-politics, they should quit being teachers and enlist in Parliament. Failing that, stick to teaching or face punishment for receiving a state salary to provide a service for which they obviously are not providing.
According to my recollection, and to Educational International who released a statement at that time," the strike action made in March (was) to raise concern about the physical security of academics, education workers and students in education institutions." If you remember, police were coming into schools and taking people from classes. I remember clearly, since I was teaching in Bahrain at the time.
RAH that is the attitude that will cause the loss of your country.
It's really hard to judge in a case like this. The article doesn't go into enough detail for the casual reader to make a decent judgement.
But I'm against one thing - Amnesty International sticking their noses into other people's business, and worse still trying to impose their values on everyone else. I'm referring to firstly their condemnation of the death penalty, as well as anything else that doesn't conform to their own set of values. I honestly can't say if these two teachers are guilty of a crime, BUT if they did incite teachers to shut down the education system because of a political wish, that is WRONG. And wrongs should be righted, and if it takes legal action, then so be it. What have the children done to deserve losing or damaging their education? I can understand striking for better wages or conditions. But a teacher, doctor, bus driver, police man or whatever should nto involve in political strikes that will negatively effect the public.
In order to understand this verdict you have to understand what was happening in Bahrain at the time. The country was on the verge of falling into complete anarchy and the teachers' leaders were trying to accelerate this by using children as pawns to further their OWN political ends. It is unacceptable that children were being encouraged to demonstrate about issues they knew nothing about. Luckily many volunteer teachers came to schools to fill the gap and ensure children were actually taught in schools.
As to the teacher who said police were coming to schools and colleges. Yes. If there were youngsters who were invololved in criminal activity they were arrested and questioned. It seems that you can't criticise teachers or doctors. These saints should supposedly not be subject to the laws that everyone else has to abide by. The verdict was fair and reflects the law. If AI 's wish came true Bahrain would not be a very nice place to be and the cycle of retribution would continue.