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Postal union activist suspended from job over media statement

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Postal Directorate of the Ministry of Transport and the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) suspended union activist Jamal Ateeq from his job for five days without pay for expressing his views in the local media.

Ateeq is the elected president of the "unauthorized" Postal Union (PU), one of the largest unions in Bahrain. He has been speaking to the media since the inception of the PU. He was most recently cited in an article published on 15 October 2007 in the "Al-wasat" newspaper. Ateeq's employer considered the statement quoted in this article to be defamatory, as in a CSB statement announcing penalties against Ateeq.

Ateeq was suspended from his position as a postal specialist for five days beginning 8 December. In response, Ateeq immediately began a peaceful protest in the form of a hunger strike, which he is holding in the Bahrain General Union's headquarters for the duration of his suspension.

The measure taken against Ateeq was based on an administrative order by the CSB banning the formation of unions to represent government workers, in direct violation of Decree Code Number 33 of 2002; the administrative order rendered the PU unauthorized and therefore illegal. This is not the first such punishment of Ateeq for speaking to the media; he was similarly penalized in 2005 with a three-day suspension.

The BCHR is concerned about Ateeq's suspension, which appears to be intended to silence him and to deter other unionists, as well as other human rights activists, from speaking out.

The BCHR is also worried about the deterioration of Ateeq's health as a result of his hunger strike, and holds the Bahraini authorities responsible for his well-being.

The measures against Ateeq violate Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as domestic legislation, and are part of a systemic attack by the authorities on all forms of free expression in Bahrain.

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