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BAHRAIN: Health workers get jail terms after treating protesters

September 29, 2011 |  4:37 pm

A court in Bahrain on Thursday handed lengthy jail terms to 20 doctors and nurses convicted of crimes against the state after treating anti-government demonstrators and sentenced a protester to death, according to human rights activists.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights reports that the special security court gave the medical professionals sentences of between five and 15 years.

Authorities accused the health personnel of using Manama’s Salamaniya Medical Complex, where they worked, as a “control center” for pro-reform protests at a nearby roundabout this year, Amnesty International says.

The defendants deny all the charges, which include incitement against the regime, occupying the hospital by force, stealing medicine 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, a regional deputy director for Amnesty International. “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.”

The protester sentenced to death in a separate case was convicted of killing a police officer. An alleged accomplice received a life sentence, the Bahrain rights group said.

Hundreds of activists have been jailed since members of the Shiite majority began protesting in February to demand greater rights and freedoms in the Sunni-ruled Persian Gulf kingdom.

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

-- Alexandra Zavis in Los Angeles

Photo: Nurses comfort a colleague after she was threatened by police at Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama, Bahrain, on March 15, 2011. Credit: Mazen Mahdi / EPA