Equal Times exclusive: Free the medics in Bahrain

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Many Bahraini medics and doctors assisted injured protesters during the uprising in Manama, in February 2011

They were then accused of inciting sectarian hatred and the overthrow of the regime. These medics were detained, tortured and harassed for nearly two months and many were initially sentenced to 15 years in prison by a military court.

The individual stories can be found on the human rights websites Doctors in chains and Physicians for human rights.

One year later, after the trial was moved to a civilian court, some medics were released and acquitted. However, without a clear motivation, the court has rejected the appeal of six remaining doctors and medics, who have been re-imprisoned with sentences ranging from one to five years.

These doctors and medics have started a hunger strike to demand their immediate release and acquittal.

Exclusively on Equal Times, the released Bahraini medics and doctors are making an appeal to the international community to help free their colleagues.

Timeline of events

14 February 2011 – The uprisings begin at the Pearl Roundabout in the centre of Manama, Bahrain; many doctors and medics volunteer to offer assistance to injured protesters at the medical tents, under the approval of the Ministry of Health, and at the Salmaniya Hospital.

19 March 2011 – The Bahraini authorities wait a month before arresting 85 doctors and medics without warrant, taking them from their houses by armed security forces. Most of them are detained, tortured, harassed and abused for nearly two months.

13 June, 2011 – The trial at the Special Tribunal Court (military court) starts and 20 doctors and medics are sentenced to 15 years in prison. The charges include:

  • Unauthorised possession of weapons and ammunition; enticing sectarian hatred; attempts to occupy buildings by force; dissemination of false news; inciting the overthrow of the regime; stealing medical equipment.

Two doctors remain in prison, while the others are released and await their verdicts.

10 May 2012 – The trial is passed on to a civilian court and the doctors present their defense pleadings.

14 June 2012 – The court delivers the verdict on the 20 Bahraini doctors and medics:

  • Nine are acquitted of charges.
  • Nine have their sentences reduced but file an appeal.

2 October 2012 – The court rejects the appeal and six doctors and medics are re-imprisoned:

  • Dr Ali Al-Ekri, Pediatric orthopedic surgeon (five years)
  • Dr Ghassan Dhaif, Maxillofacial Surgeon (one year)
  • Dr Saeed Al-Samahiji, Ophthalmologist (one year)
  • Dheya Ibrahim (two-month sentence – awaiting details for publication)
  • Ibrahim Al Demistani (three-year sentence – awaiting details for publication)
  • Ibrahim Abdullah Ibrahim (three years)

Two other medics have been in prison since 2011:

  • Ahmed Almushatat (two years)
  • Hassan Matooq (three years)

In a separate case, four medical professionals were convicted and are currently in detention:

  • Younis Ashouri, Administrator, Muharraq Maternity Hospital (three years)
  • Hassan Salman Al-Maatouq, Nurse, Salmaniya Medical Complex (three years)
  • Ahmed Almushatat, Pharmacist (two years)
  • Hassan Alarabi, medical student (six months)

Twenty-eight health professionals, who were accused of misdemeanors, have been released from detention but are still on trial.

14 October 2012 – The medics in prison go on hunger strike to demand that all charges are dropped and their immediate release.