Release detained Bahraini teachers says TUC

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Solidarity with Bahrain Teachers' Association (BTA)

Continued detention of members

August 2011

The TUC and Amnesty International are calling for the release of Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, two members of the Bahrain Teachers' Association (BTA) who were arrested during the unrest in March and April 2011. They remain incarcerated awaiting trial in a civilian court, which has been postponed until further notice.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has written to HE Rashid Al-Khalifa, Bahraini Ambassador to the UK, expressing serious concerns over their continued detention for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. He urged the Government to immediately release them and to hold to account those responsible for their arrest and possible abuse.

Background

Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, together with several other board members of the BTA, were arrested in March and April 2011. While their colleagues were released, they were brought to trial before the National Safety Court of First Instance (a military court) on 15 June on charges which include 'inciting hatred towards the regime', 'calling to overthrow and change the regime by force', 'calling on parents not to send their children to school' and 'calling on teachers to stop working and participate in strikes and demonstrations'. After further hearings on 22 and 29 June - their trial was transferred to a civilian court and postponed until further notice.

Jalila al-Salman's house in Manama was raided on 29 March by more than 40 security officers. She was reportedly taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) in Manama where she remained for about a week during which she was reportedly beaten, including with objects, and held in solitary confinement. She is believed to have been transferred to the custody of the military and held there for around two months, before being transferred again to a detention centre in 'Issa Town in Bahrain, where she is currently held. Jalila al-Salman's family were not aware of her whereabouts until soon after her transfer to the detention centre in 'Issa Town and have only been allowed to see her there on two occasions. The second of these visits was on 16 July, and was under very strict surveillance.

Amnesty International has reviewed statements issued by the BTA. One of them, published on 13 March, called on teachers and employees of the Ministry of Education to go on strike, and on parents not to take their children to school during large-scale demonstrations in Bahrain. Amnesty International has also listened to speeches delivered by Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb that made similar appeals. It has, however, seen no evidence that either of them advocated violence of any kind in these or other activities. Consequently, although the organization does not have the full details of the evidence presented so far in the trial, it believes that they are likely to be prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly as leading members of the BTA.

Please go to the Amnesty International page for further information on this appeal and see ITUC Annual Survey of Trade Union Violations for information on trade union violations in Bahrain.

2 August 2011

HE Shaikh Khalifa Bin Ali Al Khalifa

Ambassador

Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain

Dear Ambassador

Detention of Bahrain Teacher's Association members

Further to my letter of 24 May 2011, I am now writing to express our deep concern over the continued detention of Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi 'Issa Madhdi Abu Dheeb of the Bahrain Teachers' Association (BTA) for exercising their legitimate rights as trade unionists.

Jalila and Mahdi, together with several of their colleagues, were arrested after calling on teachers and employees of the Ministry of Education to go on strike. Jalila was taken from her home in Manama on 29 March 2011 by members of the Criminal Investigation Directorate, detained for about a week and reportedly beaten and held in solidarity confinement. She was transferred to military custody for two months. She has since been transferred again to a detention centre in Isa Town, Manama where she remains.

Their colleagues have been released but they remain in detention, facing trial on charges which include inciting hatred towards the regime and calling on teachers to stop working and participate in strikes and demonstrations. No trial date has been set.

In considering the Bahraini government's allegations against them, Amnesty International concluded that: 'they are likely to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly as leading members of the BTA'. I am attaching Amnesty International's urgent action appeal for your information.

I urge your government to release them immediately and unconditionally. I also urge the authorities to protect them from torture and other ill-treatment and immediately set up an impartial and public investigation that brings to justice those found responsible for what has happened to them.

I hope you give this important matter your immediate attention and look forward to your response.

In that regard, I would also appreciate a reply from you to my letter of 24 May 2011 where I raised serious concerns about the mass sackings of workers.

Yours sincerely

BRENDAN BARBER

General Secretary

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