Last updated: 21 October, 2012

Bahrain court cuts jail terms of two Shiite teachers

Bahrain’s appeals court on Sunday cut the jail terms of two Shiite teachers’ union leaders, convicted of calling for the toppling of the Sunni monarchy during last year’s protests, a prosecution statement said.

The court halved the 10-year jail sentence handed down to the head of the teachers’ union, Mahdi Abu Deeb, and reduced the three-year sentence for his deputy Jalila al-Salman to six months, the statement and lawyers said.

The charge of calling for the overthrow of the monarchy was dropped, according to the statement carried by BNA state news agency.

But the pair’s convictions for exploiting their union positions to instigate protests, calling for teachers’ strikes and disrupting school were upheld.

Abu Deeb, who has been behind bars since April last year, appeared in court in person, but Salman was not present. She has been out on bail since August last year after spending around five months in jail.

The earlier sentences were issued by a special quasi-military court set up after security forces backed by a Saudi-led Gulf contingent quelled a month-long protest in mid-March last year.

Scores of Shiites, including medics, have been tried and jailed for taking part in protests that demanded democratic change in the Shiite-majority Gulf state.

Bahrain came under strong criticism from international rights groups over last year’s deadly crackdown on the protests.

An international panel commissioned by King Hamad to probe the clampdown found that excessive force and torture had been used against protesters and detainees.

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, a total of 80 people have been killed in Bahrain since the violence began on February 14, 2011.

Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet and strategically situated across the Gulf from Iran, has continued to witness sporadic demonstrations, mostly outside the capital Manama.