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Mahdi Abu Dheeb is free! How you supported the Bahraini teacher's freedom

    April 15, 2016

    Prisoner of conscience and former president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association, Mahdi Abu Dheeb, was finally released on April 4th and reunited with his family after 5 years in prison. Another prisoner of conscience and one of the 13 opposition activists, Salah al-Khawaja, was also released from prison on March 19th after completing his 5 year prison sentence. He is now back with his family, but his brother Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is serving a life prison sentence and niece Zainab al-Khawaja, who is serving a 3 year and 1 month prison sentence with her 15 month old son, continue to be prisoners of conscience.

    As Mahdi Abu Dheeb's jail term came to an end in Bahrain, activists around the world made sure authorities released him by keeping up the pressure with a ten day countdown. The #FreeAbuDheeb countdown sent a clear message: set him free and keep him safe.

    There is a problem with Bahrain’s jails and courthouses: they have revolving doors. Too many human rights defenders are caught in cycles of judicial harassment, arbitrary detention, and restrictions on travel, or worse.

    Mahdi Abu Dheeb was imprisoned in 2011 for his legitimate trade union activities and sentenced on appeal to five years in jail. He was due for release on Monday 4 April 2016 – but in Bahrain, that does not guarantee you freedom.

    At Amnesty, we've campaigned for his release for many years. To make sure that the day would finally come we held a 10-day countdown to his due release date.

    People across the world took part.  As the countdown continued, even artist Ai Wei Wei got involved, with lots of people sharing his lego portrait of Mahdi.

    Someone who understands state harassment well is Bahraini human rights defender and activist Nabeel Rajab – frequently imprisoned for speaking out, including on Twitter. He is currently on a travel ban with pending charges against him as a result of peacefully expressing his views.

     As the date Mahdi was due to be released drew closer, the tension increased for all of us, especially for Mahdi’s family and friends. With one day left to go, it was their turn to count down:

    The outcome?

    A huge thank you to everybody that took part!