News / Middle East

Bahrain Court Eases Sentences for Uprising Medics

Dr. Fatima Haji, second left, hugs an unidentified woman after getting word of a judge's verdict Thursday, June 14, 2012, at a fellow doctor's home in Sehla, Bahrain.Dr. Fatima Haji, second left, hugs an unidentified woman after getting word of a judge's verdict Thursday, June 14, 2012, at a fellow doctor's home in Sehla, Bahrain.
x
Dr. Fatima Haji, second left, hugs an unidentified woman after getting word of a judge's verdict Thursday, June 14, 2012, at a fellow doctor's home in Sehla, Bahrain.
Dr. Fatima Haji, second left, hugs an unidentified woman after getting word of a judge's verdict Thursday, June 14, 2012, at a fellow doctor's home in Sehla, Bahrain.
TEXT SIZE - +
Phillip Walter Wellman
MANAMA, Bahrain - A Bahraini appeals court on Thursday reduced the prison sentences of nine medics convicted for their role in last year’s anti-government uprising while acquitting nine others, in a case that has been heavily criticized by rights groups. 
 
A military court in September sentenced 20 health professionals to between five and 15 years in prison. The revised sentences range from one month to five years.
 
Two medics convicted last year did not appeal and are believed to have fled the country.
 
Bahrain's government says the charges brought against the health workers were primarily for politicizing their profession, breaching medical ethics and for attempting to overthrow the monarchy.
 
Authorities stress the group was not punished for treating injured protesters.
 
The medics are all Shi’ite Muslims who were originally accused of possessing arms and occupying the Salmaniya Medical Complex.  They say they were tortured into giving false confessions last year and insist they are innocent.
 
None was in court Thursday to hear the verdicts being announced; instead they convened at the home of one of the doctors.
 
Dr. Fatima Haji was declared innocent after originally being sentenced to five years in prison.  She expressed disappointment at the guilty verdicts that were upheld. "Some of them will go back behind bars for five years, which is absolutely unfair because we all did the same thing. We were exactly in the same place, we were in the same rooms in the hospital, we did the same thing: treating people who were in need," she said. 
 
Dr. Ghassam Dhaif, whose wife was acquitted, had his 15-year sentence reduced to one year, but says no reason for the reduction was given. "It shows you how inconsistent these courts are and how much they are politicized. There is no comparison between 15 [years] and one year, and even with this one year it’s illogical and it’s baseless," he said. 
 
The medics say they were prohibited from using some witnesses in their defense and were also unable to raise their complaint of torture in custody.
 
Ibrahim al Demestani, who says he was severely abused by security officials, was given one of the longest revised prison terms - three years.
 
"If I’m going to jail for this case, really I am glad to be there because we did humanitarian [work] and we want to expose this government to the international [community] that this is the level of our government," he said. 
 
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report published in November said some medics had moved in and out of their roles as political activists and medical personnel.  It also said some Sunni patients were turned away from the hospital by Shi’ite staff.
 
Abdul-Aziz al-Khalifa of the Bahrain Information Affairs Authority criticized the overwhelming support given to the medics by the international media.
 
"It’s unfortunate that just because they’re doctors and nurses, people think of them as having a very squeaky clean image. Some of them quite openly called for the downfall of the regime and it’s basically a coup d’état being organized by doctors," he said. 
 
Bahrain’s majority Shi’ites, who say they are treated like second-class citizens by the ruling Sunni minority, led last year’s anti-government uprising, which was eventually quelled by the government with help from neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
 
Despite some apparent attempts at reconciliation, sectarianism continues to divide the country. Brian Dooley of Human Rights First says the medics’ trial is a missed opportunity to forge reconciliation. "It’s very difficult to see a way to real reform and real reconciliation if some of these doctors are going to be found guilty," he said. 
 
The nine convicted medical workers say they will make a final appeal to Bahrain’s highest court, the Court of Cassation.
 
Twenty-eight additional medics are on trial for smaller charges and are expected to be in court next month.  
 

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jan Ryan from: Australia
June 15, 2012 7:08 AM
The night they released the medics I spoke to people who had met them 30 minutes earlier. Some of them had toe-nails pulled out. Others had sticks thrust up their anuses. They were brutalised for months. Because the best medical specialists were in prison, people died. One of my students had an aneurysm and may have lived if the medics had not been in prison.
The medic who was jailed for 5 years was filmed protesting. The clip the government uses has no sound because he was protesting at not being allowed to treat people who were wounded.
Words fail me with this government. They are feral.

In Response

by: Ahmed Bahraini from: Bahrain
June 15, 2012 10:30 AM
Hi Jan. Furthermore it is utterly disappointing for us Bahrainis to see America support and arm this regime knowing full well the extent of the abuses that go on by the Bahraini regime and all because the US has its 5th Fleet stationed in Bahrain. It wreaks of hypocrisy. It is about time America supported those who desire freedom in the Middle East and demand government by the people for the people and not by self appointed ruling family who consider Bahrainis as subjects rather than citizens and employ mercenaries in their army/police.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid