By Andy Sambidge
Global campaigning group says activists are detained for involvement in pro-reform protests
Two Bahraini women activists detained for their involvement in pro-reform protests have begun a hunger strike to demand their freedom, Amnesty International has said.
Officials from the global campaigning organisation said they have been told that the two women have begun the hunger strike to protest at the fact they still remain in prison while others have been released on bail.
Roula al-Saffar, head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, and Jalila al-Salman, vice-president of the Bahrain Teacher’s Association (BTA), have been held for several months and both allege they were tortured in detention, Amnesty International said in a statement posted on its website.
Philip Luther, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa deputy director, said: "Jalila al-Salman and Roula al-Saffar’s decision to go on hunger strike is a desperate attempt to protest against their imprisonment and the way they have been treated.
"Amnesty International is concerned that they are being held solely because they took part in protests, in which case they would both be prisoners of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally.
“The Bahraini authorities must fully investigate reports of torture without further delay, particularly because they appear to be part of a disturbingly widespread pattern of ill-treatment against protesters in detention.”
Amnesty International said that Jalila al-Salman was among several board members of the BTA arrested in Manama after the group called for a teachers’ strike amid wide-scale pro-reform protests in March.
Roula al-Saffar was among a group of health professionals accused of committing felonies during the protests, including theft of medicines. The group strongly denies the accusation.
At least 500 people have been detained in Bahrain since pro-reform protests began in February. Almost 2,000 people have been dismissed or suspended from work.
Scores of detainees, including medical professionals and prominent opposition activists, were brought before military courts for leading the protests and in some cases calling for a change of government.