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Sat 1 Oct 2011 12:33 PM

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Amnesty Int'l denounces jail terms for Bahrain doctors

Organisation's Middle East chief calls prison sentences handed out 'simply ludicrous'

Amnesty Int'l denounces jail terms for Bahrain doctors
Protester generic

Amnesty International has denounced jail sentences against a group of doctors and other health workers as “ludicrous”.

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, Amnesty said. 

The Bahraini authorities accused the group of using Manama’s Salamaniya Medical Complex, where they worked, as a “control centre” for pro-reform protests at the nearby GCC Roundabout (formerly Pearl Roundabout) in February and March.

The defendants denied all the charges, which include incitement to hatred of the regime, occupying the hospital by force, stealing medicines and stockpiling arms at the hospital.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Philip Luther said: “These are simply ludicrous charges against civilian professionals who were working to save lives amid very trying circumstances.

“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 the Bahraini authorities should never have used military courts to prosecute ordinary civilians, including doctors, teachers and human rights activists.

“The ruling government clearly wants to send a message that anybody perceived as advocating political reforms will be dealt with severely.”

Bahrain's handing down of harsh sentences to the doctors was also criticised by the United Nations human rights office.

The World Medical Association also condemned as "totally unacceptable", while the World Health Organisation said medical personnel should never be punished for doing their duty of treating all patients.

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