US Ally Bahrain Imprisons Medics that Treated Protesters
A court in Bahrain has jailed 20 medics who treated protesters to up to 15 years, after convicting them of incitement to overthrow the regime.
In a separate case, the special security court sentenced a protester to death for killing a policeman.
The medics had been released on bail after many staged a hunger strike.
“On Wednesday, the court upheld life sentences for eight Shia activists convicted over their alleged role in protests.” — BBC News
They treated people injured when a protest movement calling for more rights for the country’s Shia majority in the Sunni-ruled kingdom was crushed.
Human rights activists say the sentences against the medics come as a surprise.
They had been cautiously hopeful that the medics’ release on bail was a sign that the government was softening its approach.
The Bahraini doctors and nurses were sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison on charges that include possessing unlicensed arms, seizing medical equipment, and provoking sectarian hatred.
All worked in the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama, which security forces entered on 16 March after forcefully clearing the nearby Pearl Roundabout of demonstrators.
Human rights activists say they were only doing their duty.
Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton shakes hands with Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa following a bilateral meeting at the Department of State. State Department photo by Michael Gross.
And from Amnesty International:
A military court in Manama today found a group of doctors and other health workers guilty of attempting to topple the government during protests earlier this year, in what Amnesty International said was a travesty of justice.
At a seven-minute court session, the president of the military-run National Safety Court of First Instance read the names of the 20 defendants, announced the guilty verdicts and imposed prison sentences of up to 15 years.
“The ruling government clearly wants to send a message that anybody perceived as advocating political reforms will be dealt with severely.” — Philip Luther
Bahraini authorities have accused the group of using Manama’s Salamaniya Medical Complex, where they worked, as a ‘control centre’ for pro-reform protests at nearby GCC Roundabout (formerly Pearl Roundabout), in February and March. The defendants deny all the charges, which include incitement to hatred of the regime, occupying the hospital by force, stealing medicines and stockpiling arms at the hospital.
‘These are simply ludicrous charges against civilian professionals who were working to save lives amid very trying circumstances,’ said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. ‘It appears that the real reason for targeting these health workers was the fact that they denounced the government crackdown on protesters in interviews to international media.’
According to the US State Department “The U.S. designated Bahrain a Major Non-NATO Ally in October 2001” or:
Bahrain and the United States signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement in October 1991 granting U.S. forces access to Bahraini facilities and ensuring the right to pre-position material for future crises. Bahrain is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. The U.S. designated Bahrain a Major Non-NATO Ally in October 2001. Bahrain and the United States signed a Free Trade Agreement in 2004.
President George W. Bush welcomes His Majesty King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa of Bahrain to the Oval Office Monday, Nov. 29, 2004. White House photo by Paul Morse.