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Detained activists await trial, concerns over their well-being

(BCHR/IFEX) - On the evening of 16 August 2011, Ms Jalila al-Salman, deputy head of the Bahrain Teachers Association (BTA), was moved from police custody to a hospital for the second time in 48 hours due to chest pains and her deteriorating health condition. Al-Salman had conducted a 10-day hunger strike demanding an end to her detention and ill treatment. There is great concern for her health and well-being.

Her lawyer, Mr Mohamed al-Jishi, has not been allowed to visit her despite several requests. He had requested her release as the court has been on summer recess since mid July and al-Salman has been in detention since 29 March. She has no criminal record and does not pose a threat to society, so her detention without a sentence is unjustified and illegal.

Al-Salman is accused of "calling for and inciting the overthrow and hatred of the ruling regime", "possessing pamphlets against the ruling regime", "spreading malicious and fabricated news" and "taking part in illegal gatherings". She appeared before the military court on three occasions on 15, 22 and 29 June, before she was to be transferred to a civilian court. It is believed that the trial has been postponed to 15 September although no specific trial date or venue has been announced.

On 2 August, al-Salman, along with another detained activist, Ms Roula al-Saffar, head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, began a hunger strike to demand their freedom.

"Jalila al-Salman and Roula al-Saffar's decision to go on a hunger strike is a desperate attempt to protest against their imprisonment and the way they have been treated," said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"Amnesty International is concerned that they are being held solely because they took part in protests, in which case they would both be prisoners of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally."

The two activists are the only two women in Bahrain awaiting trial in connection with the protests who remain in prison. They currently share a cell at a detention centre in 'Issa Town, south of Manama. Other female protesters are also awaiting trial, but have been released on bail.

Al-Salman was among several board members of the BTA arrested in Manama after the group called for a teachers' strike amid wide-scale pro-reform protests in March. She was allegedly beaten during her first days in detention while al-Saffar has said she was subjected to beatings, electric shocks and verbal abuse during the first 11 days of her detention.

Al-Saffar was among a group of health professionals accused of committing felonies during the protests, including stealing medicine. The group strongly denies the accusation. She is also a cancer survivor and there is fear that the detention conditions and ill-treatment might put her life in danger again.

BCHR calls on all concerned parties to take every action available to them to call for the release of both activists and to put an end to the threats on their life. BCHR also calls for guarantees for their safety and security so that they are able to perform their activities freely and exercise their rights in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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