Bahrain regime jails doctors who dared to treat protesters

Medics say they were tortured after arrest as they receive sentences of up to 15 years

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 17 March. 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 14 February. 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 organised 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 1 April. The doctor, who had once considered running for a seat in Bahrain's parliament, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. He had criticised 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.

Enjoli Liston

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"