Bahrain doctors go on trial, alleging torture to extract confessions

Posted: June 15, 2011 in Global Unrest

Manama, Bahrain (CNN) — Dozens of doctors and nurses went on trial Monday in Bahrain, accused of taking control of a hospital during anti-government protests, storing weapons and keeping people prisoner.

The doctors, their lawyers and international human rights activists say the defendants were tortured to extract confessions against a background of demonstrations in the kingdom.

Eleven male doctors appeared in court Monday, their heads shaven, alongside at least five female doctors. They appeared stressed and anxious.

One of the doctors tried to tell the judge that his confession had been extracted under torture, but the judge told him to stop and that he would be able to give evidence later in the trial.

About half the courtroom was packed with family members. Human rights observers were in the court.

Doctors and nurses on trial in Bahrain

Defense lawyers asked for civilian doctors to examine their clients, who have only been seen by military medical staff to date.

The judge agreed, and adjourned until next week after a brief hearing.

The judge denied a request from some defense lawyers that the doctors be released while the trial is ongoing.

Many of the defendants — 24 doctors and 23 nurses and paramedics — worked at Salmaniya Medical Complex, which the government says served as a coordination point for protests against the government earlier this year.

Prosecutors alleged Monday that automatic weapons and ammunition were discovered in the hospital, that the defendants “hijacked” the hospital building and controlled it, that they protested and used violence in a government building (the hospital), and that they kidnapped the people in the hospital and kept them prisoner inside.

Government official Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak al-Khalifa raised the country’s sectarian divide, accusing the doctors of refusing to treat Sunnis and ethnic Indians.

Most Bahrains are Shiite, but the ruling elite are Sunni.

“We expect doctors to observe their oath and treat all people, regardless of sect, equally,” al-Khalifa said in comments to CNN the day before the hearing.

Activists and human rights groups allege that the medical workers are being prosecuted for treating protesters.


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