February 17, 2012

Washington, DC – On Sunday, Feb. 19, Mahdi Abu Deeb and Jaleela Al Salman – President and Vice President of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association – will appeal their military court convictions for peacefully voicing their opposition to Bahrain’s ruling regime. Human Rights First is urging the United State to publicly call for their convictions to be overturned and the charges against them dropped.

In 2011, Al Salman and Abu Deeb were detained, tortured and ultimately convicted of unfounded charges and sentenced to prison by the discredited Bahrain military court. “Mahdi Abu Deeb was given 10 years in prison and Jaleela Al Salman three years for peacefully expressing their views,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The United States Government should draw attention to their cases by name and urge the Bahraini regime to set them free unconditionally.”

Jaleela Al Salman has been released pending the appeals process, but Abu Deeb remains in Bahrain’s notorious Jaw Prison. His daughter Maryam told Human Rights First, “These charges should be dropped because there is no evidence against them except confessions forced by torture. This man is a father, a son, a husband and a prisoner of conscience who has been kept away from his family for almost a year.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has called on the Bahrain regime to “urgently take confidence-building measures including unconditionally releasing those who were convicted in military tribunals or are still awaiting trial for merely exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly.”

Instead of dropping the charges against those convicted in by the military court, however, the regime has simply moved their cases into a civilian appeals process.

“The United States should support the United Nations’ call for all these convictions to be quashed immediately,” said Dooley. “Those convicted by the discredited military court include 21 of Bahrain’s most prominent government critics, 20 medics prosecuted because they treated injured protestors, and over 150 policemen who refused to join the government’s violent crackdown.”

Human Rights First is also concerned about reports of the arrest of two prominent human rights activists, Naji Fateel and Hasan Al-Jaber, who were apparently arrested on Feb. 14 during the protests on the anniversary of the democracy uprising. Police took them into custody at Noaim Police Station. Al-Jaber is a prominent human rights blogger and Fateel is a board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) which has been reporting human rights violations in Bahrain.

Bahrain’s crackdown and these baseless prosecutions continue as the United States considers a new military transfer to Bahrain. Last year, Congressional opposition halted a proposed $53 million arms sale to the Bahraini regime due to concerns about the crackdown. But now, despite Bahrain’s failure to correct its ongoing human rights abuses, it appears that the Obama Administration is moving ahead with a new military transfer.

“This transfer sends the wrong message, especially in the absence of regular public statements by U.S. Government officials raising specific cases by name,” Dooley concluded. “The United States should immediately act to condemn these unfair trials and urge the Bahraini government to drop charges and convictions against those who went through the military courts.”

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