Annual Fundraising Appeal

The US Geological Survey recorded a minor earthquake this morning with its epicenter near Wasilla, Alaska, the probable result of Sarah Palin opening her mail box to find the latest issue of CounterPunch magazine we sent her. A few moments later she Instagrammed this startling comment…

Ayers

The lunatic Right certainly has plenty of problems. We’ve made it our business to not only expose these absurdities, but to challenge them directly. With another election cycle gaining steam, more rhetoric and vitriol will be directed at progressive issues. More hatred will be spewed at minorities, women, gays and the poor. There will be calls for more fracking and war. We won’t back down like the Democrats. We’ll continue to publish fact-based critiques and investigative reports on the shenanigans and evil of the Radical Right. Our future is in your hands. Please donate.

Day10

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
button-store2_19

or use
pp1

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

High Price of Freedom

Jailing Doctors in Bahrain

by PATRICK COCKBURN

Bahrain’s 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.

A 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”.

There 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 March 17. 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.

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

The 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 February 14. After the government crackdown in mid-March, doctors and nurses were accused of planning an armed insurrection in league with Iran.

Human 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 demonstrations.

Ali 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 al-Wifaq.

He 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.

High price of freedom: Those jailed for 15 years

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

Profiles: Six medics who face years behind bars

Dr Ali al-Iqri

The 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 organized 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 force”.

Dr Rola al-Saffar

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.

Dr Mahmood Ashghar

The 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.

Ibrahim al-Demstani

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

Dr Abdulkhaleq al-Oraibi

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

Dr Hassan al-Toblani

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

Patrick Cockburn is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.