A Bahraini teachers’ union leader, who was arrested and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment before an “unfair” military court in 2011, has been released after five years.
Mahdi Abu Dheeb, the founder and leader of the Bahrain Teachers Association, was freed last week.
Abu Dheeb and his colleague Jalila al-Salman were both arrested and charged with inciting hatred and attempting to bring down the regime of Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah — Bahrain’s only prime minister since the country’s independence in the ’70s.
Both teachers were arrested and imprisoned at a time of great unrest in Bahrain. At the time of their arrest, the authorities were clamping down on protesters who had dared to get involved in the Arab Spring.
Amnesty International said that although no evidence was brought against Abu Dheeb, he was convicted with the following charges:
- Halting the educational process
- Inciting hatred of the regime
- Attempting to overthrow the ruling system by force
- Possessing pamphlets
- Disseminating fabricated stories and information
Abu Dheeb was at his uncle’s house on April 6 2011 when police seized him for interrogation. They took him to a secret location and his family didn’t know where he was for over three weeks. He was kept in solitary confinement for 64 days.
Abu Dheeb says the police beat him when he was under interrogation. His daughter Maryam also reiterated her father’s claim, adding that “he had two broken ribs and was suffering from severe neck and back pain” when she saw him after his time in detention.
Salman was sentenced to three years, later reduced to six months. She was released in November 2012.
Abu Dheeb was initially sentenced to 10 years. However, on October 21 2012, the appeal court upheld the guilty verdict against the head of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association, but reduced his prison sentence to five years.
During his time in prison, Abu Dheeb went on hunger strike on two occasions to protest against the use of torture against detainees, having himself suffered from broken ribs and kidney damage as a result of regular beatings, according to his daughter.