News / Middle East

Acquitted Shi'ite Medics Face Uncertain Future in Bahrain

Ali al-Ekry, former senior surgeon at the Salmaniya hospital in Manama, speaks to the media after hearing the verdict in his trial, in which Bahrain's highest court upheld his jail term, in Manama, October 1, 2012.
Ali al-Ekry, former senior surgeon at the Salmaniya hospital in Manama, speaks to the media after hearing the verdict in his trial, in which Bahrain's highest court upheld his jail term, in Manama, October 1, 2012.
Phillip Walter Wellman
Nearly five months after being acquitted of crimes related to Bahrain’s anti-government uprising, some Shi’ite medics remain suspended from work and fear they may never practice medicine in the country again. Their fate lies in the hands of a committee that aims to determine whether they breached ethical codes at the height of the Gulf kingdom’s unrest last year.

Investigation

The medical workers, who assumed their names had been cleared for good, say they are confused by the ongoing investigation as authorities have yet to provide them with full details.

Several have been subpoenaed by the Civil Service Bureau for questioning later this week on the same charges of which they were acquitted, an action they say is illegal.

A spokesperson for Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority, Salman al-Jalahma, assures the process is legitimate.

"Though they have been acquitted in courtrooms, there were ethical breaches of them politicizing their profession and other ethical codes that they broke," he said. "This will be dealt with by the hospital administration and has nothing to do with the government.”

A Bahraini military court last September sentenced 20 health workers to prison terms of between five and 15 years for crimes such as attempting to overthrow the government.

Sentences

Of the nine acquitted in June, eight are employed by Bahrain's Ministry of Health and say, in addition to their suspensions, they also are forbidden to work at private clinics.  Nine of their colleagues were given reduced sentences; five are still in prison. Two of medics originally convicted are believed to have fled the country.

While the government maintains the medics politicized their profession while on duty, Bahrain has been heavily criticized for violating medical neutrality. Many believe the revised, reduced punishments were the result of mounting international condemnation.

Physicians for Human Rights

A senior researcher with Physicians for Human Rights, Abdulrazzaq al-Saiedi, says he believes the government is behind the ongoing interrogations and that convicting the medics of ethical crimes could be a way to punish them without garnering much outside attention.

"The government still wants to punish them," he said. "The government is angry with them. This Civil Service Bureau is not an independent body; it’s a government body. Here there is no independency and it’s not fair."

During Bahrain’s initial crackdown on Shi’ite protesters, it was the medics who described to the media the injuries they had seen.

Shi’ites, who make up the majority of Bahrain's indigenous population, took to the streets in February 2011 to demand political reform from their Sunni rulers.

The medical workers insist they did nothing but provide help for injured anti-government demonstrators.

But the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry affirmed staff at the country’s main hospital, “moved in and out of their roles as political activists and medical personnel.”

A YouTube video distributed by the government's information authority appears to back claims that medical personnel hosted unauthorized marches inside the hospital.

Torture

The medics were eventually arrested and say they were tortured into confessing to charges against them.  

Those later acquitted say the new interrogations could result in further suspensions or the complete withdrawing of their licenses.

Al-Saiedi, from Physicians for Human Rights, argues the medics should be receiving compensation, not more punishment.

"They need to get paid all the money that they lost, and they need to be reinstated, and also they need to be compensated for the torture," he said. "And they need to be treated well. But now we see they still think of themselves as a target. They are not safe. They don’t know what will happen tomorrow."

Dr. Fatima Haji, who received a five-year jail sentence before being acquitted, expects the worst.

“I feel like I’m not going to practice medicine in this country any more," she said. "This is my fear and this is what I feel like they are going to do.”

Last month, the five medics who remain in prison began a hunger strike, urging international rights groups to campaign for their release.

The Bahraini government has routinely accused the international media of biased coverage of the medics’ situation and insists the “legal and ethical breaches” committed would not be tolerated in any society.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid