Font Size

- Aa +

Tue 3 May 2011 07:16 PM

Font Size

- Aa +

Bahrain set to charge doctors over protester deaths

Two dozen doctors among 47 health workers to face prosecution, says justice minister

Bahrain set to charge doctors over protester deaths
Bahrain says it will charge a number of medical workers with causing the death of two demonstrators. (Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Bahrain said on Tuesday it would

charge a number of medical workers with causing the death of two

demonstrators, broadening a crackdown on the opposition in the

wake of protests that shook the Gulf island kingdom.

Human rights groups say Sunni-led Bahrain has targeted

doctors and medical staff who aided mostly-Shi'ite protesters

during anti-government demonstrations it crushed in March. It

brought in troops from Sunni-led Gulf Arab neighbours who feared

potential interference from non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran.

Justice Minister Khaled bin Ali al-Khalifa told reporters 47

medical staff would face charges, including about two dozen

doctors. Not all would be prosecuted for causing the protesters

deaths, but he did not say how many would face such charges.

He said the two protesters died because staff inflicted

additional wounds on them or gave unneeded treatments.

"The medical profession was strongly abused during this

period," he said.

The US-based rights group Physicians for Human Rights that

sent a fact-finding mission into Bahrain last month rejected the

government's account of events.

"The results of our findings were pointing to a wholly

different conclusion," the group's deputy director Richard

Sollom told Reuters.

"These doctors provided medical care for protesters,

sometimes life-saving, who were shot at by police. They're

flipping this upside down," he said.

Bahraini forces stormed the Salmaniyya Medical Centre (SMC),

the country's largest hospital in mid-March as it set about

quelling protests led mostly by the country's Shi'ite majority.

Officials said at the time the hospital had become "overrun

by political and sectarian activity". Rights groups accused

Bahrain of targeting hospitals to detain wounded protesters.

According to Sheikh Khaled, doctors inflicted additional

wounds on a protester who arrived at SMC with a wound on his

thigh, causing him to bleed to death.

He said other doctors conducted unnecessary surgery on a

protester who was shot in the head, adding the doctors in these

two cases would be charged with "assault that led to death".

Other doctors and nurses face charges ranging from inciting

hatred against the political system to possession of weapons and

embezzlement of public funds.

Bahrain's interior minister called on Tuesday for closer

regional security cooperation among Gulf states.

"We need to take more practical steps to enhance security

cooperation (including) bilateral and multilateral cooperation

between (Gulf) states and setting up a command for criminal

police," Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah al-Khalifa told a meeting of

Gulf Arab interior ministers in Abu Dhabi.

At least 13 protesters and four policemen were killed and

hundreds injured in clashes during the protests that gripped the

country for weeks in February and March.

Bahrain has arrested hundreds since quashing protests, which

called for broader political liberties and an end to sectarian

discrimination Shi'ites say they face. A few Shi'ite opposition

groups demanded the abolition of the monarchy.

The government says it only targets those who committed

crimes during the unrest. It has said about 400 people detained

in the aftermath of the protests will face prosecution.

The United States and top oil exporter Saudi Arabia regard

Bahrain's ruling family as a bulwark against the regional

influence of Iran, with which tensions have risen sharply.

Bahrain's broad crackdown on those involved in the protests

has targeted Shi'ite villages, opposition activists, workers

employed at state-owned companies as well as journalists.

Late on Monday, two former parliamentarians from the main

Shi'ite opposition group Wefaq were arrested, the group said.

The group had resigned from parliament, whose powers are

limited, in February to protest at police violence.

Bahrain's Al Wasat newspaper, seen as the country's only

opposition publication, will stop running as of next week, a

source close to the paper told Reuters on Tuesday.

The government suspended the paper last month until three of

its editors resigned. It accused the paper of falsifying news

about the unrest and the crackdown and said it threatened the

security of Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

The source told Reuters the last edition of the newspaper

would appear on May 9: "It's for economic reasons, the

commercial viability was gone."

The official Bahrain News Agency said on Tuesday the

country's Lower National Safety Court will render a judgement on

May 5 in the case of a man charged with attempting to kill a

number of policemen by attacking with his car at a checkpoint.

BNA said the military prosecutor is demanding "the most

severe punishment" for the accused, without elaborating.

The court last week sentenced four men to death accused of

killing two policemen by running them over with cars.

For all the latest health tips & news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.