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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs