Outrageous Prison Sentences for Bahraini Teachers

Scores of perceived political foes have faced trials in military courts © Amnesty International

We’ve had a lot to say over recent months about Bahrain’s treatment of protesters, and unfortunately, the most recent news doesn’t make the situation much brighter: a Bahrain military court decided to uphold the guilty verdicts against a group of prominent opposition activists, exposing yet again the inherent unfairness of the trial process.

The activists whose sentences were confirmed today (in proceedings lasting less than five minutes) are not the only civilians being tried in military courts. The ongoing struggle of teachers Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman, former president and vice-president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA), suffered another setback on Sunday: they have been sentenced to 10 and three years in prison respectively.

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Activists – and State Department – Respond to Bahrain Twitter Action

A huge thank you to supporters of our Bahrain actions over the last few days calling on the US State Department to speak out  more forcefully on unfair military trials.

More than 16,000 people have signed our online action. Further, the response to our Twitter action was absolutely fantastic, with people not only from the US but from around the world magnifying our call (go crowd!).

The Twitter action was a first for me and I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of response or outcome. I was positively surprised with both. I decided to use a new, very useful tool called storify to track the action—and the response to it!

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Musaad Abu Fagr Freed! Egyptian Bloggers Strike Back

Musaad Abu Fagr

The Egyptian government came late to discovering the power of the Internet and social networking, but for the last four years, they’ve made it the center of its efforts to muzzle Egyptian civil society.

This week, the activists pushed back and earned an important victory.

Egyptian Bedouin blogger and activist Musaad Suliman Hassan Hussein, was released July 14 after being held in prison without trial for almost three years, accused of inciting protests against the demolition of thousands of homes in the Sinai Peninsula.

The charges were ludicrous, a ruse to attack someone whose views were outside of government control.  A prisoner of conscience who often wrote under the pen name of Musaad Abu Fagr, Hussein had been adopted recently by two US Amnesty International groups in Omaha, Neb., and Westbury, N.Y.

Upon his release Abu Fagr thanked Amnesty for its efforts. “Amnesty International’s support is one of the reasons that I was released,” he said. “Your messages gave me a sense of solidarity.”

Amnesty’s joy at his release was tempered by the continuing detention of a growing number of bloggers, social network leaders, writers and other activists, including prisoner of conscience Karim Amer, who is scheduled to be released this year after a convicted based on his writings.  Egypt has been known to hold prisoners beyond their release date, and in the case of Abu Fagr, in opposition to legal orders for their release.

However, the release also comes on the heels of other promising news — a rare legal action against Egyptian policemen charged in the beating death of a blogger.  That case also brought a public comment from Gamal Mubarak, son and presumed heir to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Many Egyptian activists who have felt the taste of Egyptian jails remember how when Hosni Mubarak came to power, his reign started with the opening of prisons and the release of many political prisoners.  The possibility seemed then that a new era of human rights and freedom was ahead.

That possibility has been crushed by the reality of the regime’s desire to bring its own kind of order to every area of civil society.  Now if this recent period of sunshine is a sign of a new Mubarak rising to the presidency, activists won’t follow the assumptions of 1981.  Musaad Abu Fagr is out of prison, but he and all other activists won’t be free until all prisoners of conscience are released and human rights are protected by the rule of law.