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Bahrain Medics Punished for Treating Injured
WASHINGTON - June 14 - The court verdicts announced today in the case of 20 Bahrain medics prosecuted for treating injured protestors expose the truth behind the Bahrain regime’s false claims of reform.
Eleven of the 20 had their guilty verdicts confirmed, while nine – including five of the six women originally charged – were declared innocent. New jail sentences ranged from one month to five years. Dr. Ali Al Ekri was sentenced to five years in prison.
Today’s appeal verdicts follow the original sentences given by the military court to the 20 medics in September 2011. The medics were arrested, detained and tortured into giving false confessions last year and were released from custody while their appeal was under way. Most of today’s sentences are reduced sentences from the original ones.
These verdicts come as Human Rights First has once again been denied access to visit Bahrain and show that the dictatorship is refusing to listen to international calls for reform.
“Today was a moment of truth for the Bahrain regime, one it failed miserably,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who was in one of the appeal court hearings with the medics in March 2012. “The truth from today is that medics are to be jailed for treating the injured and for telling the world about the regime’s crackdown, and that the regime is still trying to keep the world from knowing what’s happening in Bahrain by shutting out Human Rights First and other international organizations.”
Dr. Nada Dhaif is one of those now declared innocent. Her immediate reaction was one of pain and frustration at the other sentences. “It feels like everything is broken – I can’t feel happiness, it’s a broken happiness, even though I’ve finally been declared innocent. How can they send Ghassan [Dhaif] and Ali [Al Ekri] and the others to prison – they shouldn’t be going through this. I feel sick in my throat.”
The United States government sent observers to the medics’ trial, and has urged the Bahrain regime “to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings, including a fair trial, access to attorneys, and verdicts based on credible evidence conducted in full accordance with Bahraini law and Bahrain’s international legal obligations.” This has clearly not happened today, and the U.S. government should say so clearly and publicly.
Dozens more medics are still being prosecuted for their perceived ties to the democracy protests, including Younis Ashoori, whose verdict is expected on Sunday, June 17.
Human Rights First has been denied access to visit Bahrain next week, and was denied access in January 2012. It was allowed to visit Bahrain for five days in March.