Bahrain regime jails doctors who dared to treat protesters

Bahrain regime jails
doctors who dared to treat protesters

say they were tortured after arrest as they receive sentences of up to 15 years

Patrick Cockburn

30 September 2011


Bahrain, doctors, human rights



Some of
the Bahraini medical staff jailed for 15 years

military court has sentenced 20 doctors, nurses and paramedics who treated
protesters injured during pro-democracy rallies earlier in the year to up to 15
years in prison. The defendants say they were tortured during interrogation to
extract false confessions.

The harsh
sentences, handed down by a military judge, are likely to anger Bahrain’s Shia
Muslim majority and torpedo hopes of dialogue between them and the reigning
Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty. The court’s action may be a sign that hardliners
within the royal family have taken control, since King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa
has made a number of conciliatory statements which have been followed by
intensified repression.

statement from the official Information Affairs Authority is headed
“Bahraini Doctors Sentenced for Plotting Overthrow of Government”. It
quotes the Military Prosecutor, Colonel Yussef Rashid Flaifel, as saying that
13 medical professionals had been sentenced to 15 years in prison, two to 10
years, and five to five years. It goes on to say that the doctors, in addition
to plotting a revolution, “were charged with the possession of weapons and
ammunition, forcefully taking over control of Salmaniya hospital and its
personnel, stealing medical equipment, and fabricating stories to disturb
public security”.

were never more unlikely revolutionaries. They include Rola al-Saffar, the head
of Bahrain’s nurses’ society, and Ali al-Iqri, a distinguished surgeon who was
arrested in an operating theatre on 17 March. None of the defendants was in
court to hear the sentences read out and the hearing was attended only by their
lawyers and relatives. Defendants say that the military judges refuse to listen
to allegations that they had been tortured.

government said the doctors can now appeal to Bahrain’s highest civilian court
to request that their sentences be quashed.

medical staff worked in the Salmaniya Medical Complex in the capital, Manama,
and treated those injured in fighting between protesters and security forces
after pro-democracy rallies started on 14 February. After the government
crackdown in mid-March, doctors and nurses were accused of planning an armed
insurrection in league with Iran.

rights groups described the sentences as “a travesty of justice”.
Philip Luther, of Amnesty International, said: “These are simply ludicrous
charges against civilian professionals who were working to save lives.”
The detained doctors say they were beaten, hooded and deprived of sleep to
force them to say they had deliberately let patients die and had exaggerated
injuries by pouring blood over the injured.

In a
separate case, the military court passed a death sentence on a man found guilty
of killing a policeman by running him over in Sitra district during the

Salman, the leader of al-Wifaq, the main Shia political party, said that the
medical professionals sentenced yesterday alleged “they had been
tortured”. He said he suspected that hardliners within the royal family
were using the trials “to send a message to [President] Obama”, who
last week at the UN called on the Bahraini government to negotiate with

believes that hardliners were reacting to a successful boycott of by-elections
last weekend to replace 20 al-Wifaq MPs who had resigned in protest from the
parliament. He said the turnout had been only 17 per cent. Mr Salman says any
dialogue with the government would have as its aim the freeing of all those
jailed since the demonstrations began. It is not clear how many people out of
the 1,400 originally detained in Bahrain are still in jail, because the
authorities have often refused to provide information about those arrested.
Human rights groups believe that 38 people have been killed, four of whom died
under torture.

price of freedom: Those jailed for 15 years

al-Iqri, Dr Asghar, Dr Ahmed, Dr Diwani, Dr al-Saffar, Dr al-Oraibi, Dr
Ghassan, Dr Bassim, Al-Wedaie, Dr Nada.

Six medics who face years behind bars

Dr Ali

paediatric orthopaedic surgeon was arrested by armed security forces on 17
March, reportedly while he was performing surgery in the operating theatre of
Salmaniya Hospital in Manama. Amnesty International reports that Dr al-Iqri,
who trained at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, is an activist who
organised one of the pro-democracy protests earlier this year. Despite being
released on bail last month, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison yesterday
on charges which include “incitement to overthrow the government by

Dr Rola

The head
of Bahrain’s Nursing Society and Professor at the College of Health Sciences
reportedly began a hunger strike last month in protest against ill-treatment
and torture in custody. She was detained in March after treating injured
protesters at Salmaniya Hospital. She was released on bail at the end of August
and was yesterday sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Mahmood Ashghar

consultant paediatric surgeon was also detained in March for allegedly
instigating protests at Manama’s Pearl roundabout by making
“provocative” speeches at Salmaniya Hospital. He has also been
accused of briefing journalists on atrocities allegedly committed by Bahraini
security forces against civilians who were being treated at the hospital during
February’s protests. He has also been sentenced to 15 years in prison.


The nurse
from Duraz was arrested earlier this year for allegedly treating an injured
youth who had participated in the February protests.

Abdulkhaleq al-Oraibi

rheumatologist was reportedly arrested during a police raid on his house in the
early hours of 1 April. The doctor, who had once considered running for a seat
in Bahrain’s parliament, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. He had
criticised authorities who prevented medics from treating wounded protesters in

Dr Hassan

The head
of Salmaniya Hospital’s intensive care unit has been sentenced to 10 years in





“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and
belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or
acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends
forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different
centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down
the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

– Robert Francis Kennedy quotes ( U.S. attorney general and adviser,



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