Bahrain doctors, nurses to be tried

Posted: May 04, 2011

MANAMA, Bahrain - A number of doctors and nurses who treated injured antigovernment demonstrators during the months of unrest in Bahrain will be tried in a military court on charges of acting against the state, the justice minister said Tuesday.

Khaled bin Ali al-Khalifa said the charges against 23 doctors and 24 nurses include participating in efforts to topple the island kingdom'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, home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

During the unrest, medical staff repeatedly said they were under professional duty to treat all, and they strongly denied authorities' allegations that helping antigovernment demonstrators was akin to supporting their cause.

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

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

Bahrain's Sunni rulers declared martial law March 15 to crush Shiites demonstrating for greater rights and freedoms. 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.

U.S. State Department Mark Toner cautioned that targeting opposition politicians was not necessarily the best way for the government to address the situation. "We call on Bahrain to respect the detainees' rights to due process," he said. He added he was unaware of charges being filed against medical professionals.

The justice minister, at a news conference, read the charges against the 23 doctors and 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 the military later overran.

At least 30 people have died since the protests in Bahrain began in mid-February.

Developments in the Region

Syria: Condemned internationally for its bloody crackdown on protesters, President Bashar al-Assad's regime is expanding an intimidation campaign to keep people off the streets, rights activists said. Arbitrary arrests and unexplained disappearances have escalated sharply,

they said. Ammar Qurabi, who heads the National Organization

for Human Rights in Syria, estimated that more than 1,000 people had been detained since Saturday. Amnesty International said Syrian forces had badly treated many detainees.

Yemen: President Ali Abdullah Saleh asked a key mediator from a powerful alliance of neighboring gulf countries to indefinitely delay his visit, two of his associates said. Saleh's move was a political slap to efforts by Yemen's neighbors to resolve nearly three months of antigovernment unrest

in the poor Arab country. Saleh had initially

agreed to terms of

the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, which called on him to step down within 30 days.

- Associated Press

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