SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — An appeals court in Bahrain has convicted nine medics for their role in the country's pro-democracy uprising, despite widespread criticism of the trial from international human rights groups.
The longest sentence, five years, went to Ali al-Ekry, formerly the senior medic at Salmaniya Medical Complex, the largest hospital in Bahrain. Eight other doctors were sentenced to between one month and three years.
The doctors, twenty of them in all, were originally convicted by a military court. Two of them did not appeal their 15-year sentences, and are believed to have fled Bahrain or gone underground. Nine others had their verdicts dismissed on Thursday by the appeals court.
The court dismissed some of the most serious charges against the doctors, including allegations that they "occupied" the hospital and possessed weapons.
The medics case began in March, when security forces arrested 48 staffers at Salmaniya. Twenty of them were convicted by a military court and sentenced to jail terms of between five and 15 years, a verdict criticised by the United Nations as "harsh." The rest were charged with misdemeanors.
The group tried in military court was convicted of attempting to overthrow the government; rights groups say they were prosecuted simply for treating wounded protesters and taking part in demonstrations themselves.
After intense international pressure, their cases were transferred to a civilian court. The public prosecutor said in March that he wanted to drop charges against all but five of the medics, but - somewhat bizarrely - the trial continued.
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, the government panel established to study last year's unrest, found that the medics were tortured while in custody. Rights groups have argued that all of the convictions should be dismissed.
“The government of Bahrain cannot claim to care about human rights while it upholds convictions based on torture," said Donna McKay, the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, a US-based group that has done extensive work on Bahrain. "All convictions must be thrown out."
source : Aljazeera English