FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Jailing Doctors in Bahrain

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.

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

June 20, 2018
Henry Giroux
Trump’s War on Children is an act of State Terrorism
Bill Hackwell
Unprecedented Cruelty Against Immigrants and Their Children
Paul Atwood
“What? You Think We’re So Innocent?”
Nicola Perugini
The Palestinian Tipping Point
K.J. Noh
Destiny and Daring: South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s Impossible Journey Towards Peace
Gary Leupp
Jeff Sessions and St. Paul’s Clear and Wise Commands
M. G. Piety
On Speaking Small Truths to Power
Dave Lindorff
Some Straight Talk for Younger People on Social Security (and Medicare too)
George Wuerthner
The Public Value of Forests as Carbon Reserves
CJ Hopkins
Confession of a Putin-Nazi Denialist
David Schultz
Less Than Fundamental:  the Myth of Voting Rights in America
Rohullah Naderi
The West’s Over-Publicized Development Achievements in Afghanistan 
Dan Bacher
California Lacks Real Marine Protection as Offshore Drilling Expands in State Waters
Lori Hanson – Miguel Gomez
The Students of Nicaragua’s April Uprising
Russell Mokhiber
Are Corporations Behind Frivolous Lawsuits Against Corporations?
Michael Welton
Infusing Civil Society With Hope for a Better World
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail