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.
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

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid