Thursday, September 29, 2011
Military courts in Bahrain convict doctors and uphold life senctences against opposition leaders
Amnesty International has voiced anger over the conviction, on 29 September, of 20 medics in Bahrain who got prison sentences of up to 15 years. The doctors and other health workers were found guilty by a military court in Manama of attempting to topple the government during protests earlier this year. Amnesty International calle the process a travesty of justice.
At a seven-minute court session, the president of the military-run National Safety Court of First Instance read the names of the 20 defendants, announced the guilty verdicts and imposed prison sentences of up to 15 years.
Bahraini authorities have accused the group of using Manama’s Salamaniya Medical Complex, where they worked, as a “control centre” for pro-reform protests at nearby GCC Roundabout (formerly Pearl Roundabout), in February and March. The defendants deny all the charges, which include incitement to hatred of the regime, occupying the hospital by force, stealing medicines and stockpiling arms at the hospital.
“These are simply ludicrous charges against civilian professionals who were working to save lives amid very trying circumstances,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “It appears that the real reason for targeting these health workers was the fact that they denounced the government crackdown on protesters in interviews to international media.”
“We’ve repeatedly said that Bahraini authorities should never have used military courts to prosecute ordinary civilians, including doctors, teachers and human rights activists.
Other military trials in Bahrain this week have upheld guilty verdicts and harsh jail terms – including life sentences – for human rights activists and teachers on charges related to the protests earlier this year.
The paper The National reported that the eight activists sentenced to life whose verdicts were upheld, include Hassan Mashaima, head of the Shiite opposition Haq movement, Abdulwahab Hussein, who leads the Shiite Wafa Islamic Movement, and the Shiite human-rights activist Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, who is also a Danish citizen. Activist and Haq member Abduljalil Al Singace, who was released in February after six months in jail, was also sentenced to life.The other four are Mohammed Habib Al Muqdad, who holds a Swedish passport; his cousin Abduljalil Al Muqdad and Saeed Mirza, both of whom Wafa members, and Said Abdulnabi Shihab, who was sentenced in absentia.
Ibrahim Sharif, the Sunni leader of the Waed secular group, who played a prominent role in month-long protests for democratic reform that were crushed in March, received a five-year sentence.
On Thursday also one man got a death sentence. Bahrain's official news agency, BNA, said the protester sentenced to death, Ali Yusof al-Taweel, had killed a policeman in the Shia area of Sitra, south of Manama. Earlier, the security court had sentenced two other protesters to death for killing a police officer.