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

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More