Bahrain doctors to be tried for helping protesters

AP , Tuesday 3 May 2011

Charges are brought against 23 doctors and 24 nurses in the latest move by the Bahraini government to crackdown on dissent

A man looks at a billboard in Muharraq, Bahrain Thursday, April 28, 2011 demanding no leniency for those who opposed the Bahraini regime, (AP).

Several doctors and nurses who treated injured anti-government protesters during months of unrest in the Gulf kingdom have been charged with acts against the state and will be tried in a military court, the justice minister said Tuesday.

Khaled bin Ali Al Khalifa said the charges against 23 doctors and 24 nurses include participating in attempts to topple the island's Sunni monarchy and taking part in illegal rallies.

The announcement is the latest in the Sunni rulers' relentless pursuit of Shiite opposition supporters after weeks of street marches demanding greater freedoms, equal rights and an elected government in Bahrain.

Separately, two former parliament members of the country's main Shiite party Al Wefaq were arrested Monday night, according to a senior party leader, Abdul-Jalil Khalil.

Al Wefaq has been the leading political backer of Bahrain's uprising, inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year.

Bahrain's Sunni rulers declared martial law on March 15 to crush the Shiite revolt. Hundreds of protesters, opposition leaders, human rights activists and lawyers have been detained since emergency rule was imposed. Dozens of doctors, nurses and other medical staff have also been arrested.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the justice minister read the charges against the 23 doctors and the 24 nurses, which also include "promoting efforts to bring down the government" and "harming the public by spreading false news." International rights groups say Bahrain is targeting medical professionals who treated injured demonstrators at the Salmaniya medical center, which was later overrun by the military.

At least 30 people have died since the protests in Bahrain began in mid February. Among the dead are also four opposition supporters who died in custody, including a blogger.

On Thursday, four anti-government protesters were convicted of killing two policemen during the protests and sentenced to death by a military court. Three other demonstrators got life sentences.

The military took over the state-run Salmaniya hospital in March, and doctors and patients said soldiers and police had conducted interrogations and detentions inside the complex.

Physicians for Human Rights said in a report last month that at least 32 health care professionals have been detained since Bahrain declared martial law. The report by the U.S.-based group detailed attacks on physicians, medical staff and patients "with weapons, beatings and tear gas."

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