Saturday, June 16, 2012

Trial in Bahrain

From the chief Bahrain correspondent of Angry Arab: "Today, 9 of the 20 doctors sentenced last year were acquitted of all charges (well to be accurate three of the twenty are nurses). This leaves 11 doctors. Two doctors did not appeal their sentences. They both received 15 year sentences but since they both fled the country, we are left with 9 doctors.

The prosecution dropped the two most outrageous charges - the occupation of the hospital and the possession of arms. However to save themselves some embarrassment they decided to give the nine doctors sentences ranging from 1 month to 5 years. I mean, after lying for an entire year they couldn't just acquit them all could they? The government said that five out of these nine doctors already served their sentences during their previous imprisonment. This leaves the four scapegoats.

Scapegoat #1: Ali AlEkri. He is a senior orthopaedic surgeon and one of Bahrain's best doctors. You probably know him from his profile on AlJazeera English as the doctor who treated the wounded in Gaza. Because of his experience in war zones, he took a leadership role when the hospital was overwhelmed with injured patients. Many of the doctors in Bahrain have never been in a war zone situation and where overwhelmed with the number of injuries. Many were fainting and crying because they had never seen injuries like this in their life.

His sentence was reduced from 15 to 5 years. He was found guilty of inciting the overthrow of the regime and participating in a gathering of more than five persons

Scapegoat #2: Ibrahim AlDemestani. He is a nurse and the Secretary of the Bahraini Nursing Society. Along with the President Rola AlSaffar who was acquitted, he played a major role in organizing the hospital's response to the treatment of the wounded. His sentence was reduced from 15 years to 3 years. He was charged with participating in a gathering of more than 5 persons. I am unclear if there are any other charges he was found guilty of but I am guessing they are similar to AlEkri.

Scapegoat #3: Ghassan Dhaif. He is a senior consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon, (yep had to look that one up) and is the top doctor in his speciality. His sentence was reduced from 15 years to 1 year. He was found guilty of inciting hatred between sects and participating in a gathering of more than five persons. His wife, Dr Zahra AlSammak, was acquitted of all charges.

Scapegoat #4: Dr. Saeed AlSamaheeji. He is a Senior Opthalmologist and was tortured so badly that he was transferred to the ICU. He had internal bleeding and the only two surgeons in Bahrain that were specialized in his type of injury were in prison too. So he was flown to Jordan for treatment. His sentence was reduced from 10 years to 1 year. He was found guilty of inciting hatred between sects and participating in a gathering of more than five persons.

There are still more healthcare professionals facing separate trials. I am unclear as to when they will be tried, what they are accused of and why they were tried separately.

There are a few things to note here. All the women were acquitted. All those who were actively speaking to the media after they were sentenced and speak good english were acquitted. The four scapegoats were the ones who spoke the most to the media when the hospital was treating the injured and when the military took over the hospital.

So there you have it. According to Physicians for Human Rights, a total of 96 healthcare professionals were arrested by the regime in 2011. They regime accused them of occupying the hospital, holding patients hostage, forcing patients to fake injuries, carrying sacks of fake blood, refusing to treat sunni patients, storing weapons in the hospital, planning to overthrow the government and many other ridiculous charges. We are now left with four people accused of inciting hatred against the regime, inciting hatred between sects and participating in a gathering of more than 5 persons. What a joke. You can see the full list of healthcare professionals here:

Now Posner was apparently disappointed with the sentences and disappointed that the regime did not use "alternative means" to address the cases (notice he did not condemn the sentences and call for the dropping of all charges immediately). Well thank you for your disappointment. The US sent a clear message to the Bahraini regime: It will continue being its ally and selling it weapons no matter what it does. So why the hell would the regime care about Posner being disappointed?

What happened here is obvious. The regime occupied the hospital, arrested the injured and then arrested the witnesses to the injuries. After that it made up a bunch of bogus charges that no one believed. NGOs went crazy (after all nothing looks worse than arresting healthcare professionals) and the media kept reporting on the story. The regime got embarrassed, realized that it probably went too far with this one. After intense pressure, the regime tried to find a way out without looking like too much of an idiot, so it decided to convict 9 doctors, drop the two most outrageous charges and release all the rest. Imagine what it would have done if the US openly condemned the regime and called on them to drop all charges immediately. So now, a little more than a year later, the saga of the healthcare professionals still hasn't ended but it is clear that the entire thing was one big fabrication."