The trial of the 20 medics, who are all Shiite Muslims, has drawn international criticism of the US-allied Gulf Arab state, home to the US Fifth fleet and a key Gulf partner. In September a military court sentenced the medics to terms of between 5 and 15 years on charges including occupying a hospital, incitement to topple the monarchy and arms possession.
In revising the sentences, a court on Thursday gave Ali al-Ekry, a senior orthopaedic surgeon who worked at the Salmaniya Hospital in Manama, a five-year sentence and Ibrahim al-Dimistani three years. Seven others were handed sentences ranging from one month to one year.
“This is an unjust ruling, they are innocent. They should be trying the authorities, not these doctors,” said Tewfik Dhaif, 53, uncle of two of the men sentenced on Thursday.
“These are the elite doctors in this country. We have 15 doctors in my family, most of the people they have treated were Al Khalifas,” he said, referring to Bahrain’s ruling family.
The verdicts follow an earlier trial in military court that gave jail terms of 15 years to two medics. Those defendants are believed to have left the country and their case was then transferred to civilian court for a retrial, though the original verdicts still stood. The Sunni Al Khalifa family, backed by Saudi-led Gulf troops, crushed the protest movement led by the Shiite majority that erupted last year after revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. The protests, which ended in a brutal crackdown, including sweeping arrests, demolition of Shiite mosques and dismissal of thousands of Shiites from their jobs, left the country more divided and riven with sectarian hatred.M The doctors, who were released last year after an outcry over allegations of torture during detention, were not present during the brief court session. “This is a baseless political verdict. It’s a political punishment to keep the loyalists happy by keeping a few of us guilty,” Ali al-Ekry told Reuters.
Official and public opinion among many Sunnis was against the doctors, who spoke to TV stations about the conditions of the wounded. They accused them of deliberately worsening patient injuries and causing the deaths of protesters in order to discredit security forces who attacked them.