News / Middle East

Bahrain Court Cases Resume For Doctors, Anti-Government Protesters

Dr. Ali al-Ekri, left, Dr. Nada Dhaif, center, Dr. Fatima Haji, 3rd right, and Dr. Saeed Samaheeji, right, leave the Manama, Bahrain, courthouse  after a trial session appealing security court convictions and sentences against them and other medics, Janua
Dr. Ali al-Ekri, left, Dr. Nada Dhaif, center, Dr. Fatima Haji, 3rd right, and Dr. Saeed Samaheeji, right, leave the Manama, Bahrain, courthouse after a trial session appealing security court convictions and sentences against them and other medics, Janua

The judicial process in Bahrain has resumed for doctors and other medical staff who were sentenced to prison after they treated pro-democracy demonstrators injured during a government crackdown last year. Meanwhile, a civilian court overturned death sentences for two protesters convicted of murdering two policemen during the violence.

A military court in September sentenced 20 health workers to up to 15 years each in prison.

But following a barrage of international criticism, Bahrain’s attorney general overturned the convictions and ordered retrials in a civilian court.

In addition to the charge of occupying the main Salmaniya Hospital, some of the medics are accused of storing weapons, refusing to treat government supporters, stealing medical equipment, and lying to the media. They deny the charges.

Bahrain’s main opposition party al-Wefaq has been one of the most vocal critics of the government’s treatment of the medical workers.  Spokesperson Jasim Hussain insists the group is being punished for helping injured protesters.

"The process was wrong from the very beginning," said Hussain.  "These people should be set free and compensated, reinstated back in their jobs so they can go about providing services to the people."

Pro-democracy demonstrations began in Bahrain in February following successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.  The protesters came largely from the kingdom's Shi'ites, who say they are treated like second-class citizens and not given the same benefits as the ruling Sunni minority.

Most of the early protests took place at the Pearl Roundabout in the capital Manama.  However, after security forces stormed the area, many protesters relocated to Salmaniya Hospital.

Bahraini authorities say medical staff used Salmaniya as a “control center” for the opposition movement.  Government troops were later sent in to occupy the complex.

Since March, authorities in the small Persian Gulf state have been accused of tracking down and punishing anyone who took part in the anti-government rallies.

Rights groups say thousands of opposition supporters have been arrested, and many of those arrested claim they were tortured while in custody.  More than 50 people have been killed since protesting began.

According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, thousands of mostly Shi’ite employees have been fired from their jobs in various sectors because of their political views.  Those dismissed include a number of medical professionals.

Dr. Fatima Haji, a former employee at Salmaniya who is on trial, was originally sentenced to five years imprisonment.  She says she and her colleagues are currently prohibited from working in the medical field, have had their salaries frozen, and are banned from travelling outside the country.

"They are fighting us on a different level," said the doctor.  "There are campaigns running in the newspapers and the local TV ruining our reputation, so basically they are hunting us. When I think about it, we are living in hell."

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report published in November stated that “many detainees were subjected to torture and other forms of physical and psychological abuse” after being detained.

The commission also stated there was no evidence that the accused medics possessed weapons or refused to treat Sunni patients.

According to Dr. Haji, it remains unclear whether the report will have any impact on the trials.  It is also unclear when the court will deliver its final verdicts.

"We know that we are innocent and we didn’t do anything wrong. We asked for our basic rights. The people here in Bahrain are asking for their basic human rights," she said.

The government showed some signs of softening Monday as a civilian court also overturned death sentences for two protesters convicted of murdering two policemen during the violence. Their sentences were originally handed down by a security court set up under emergency law last year.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid