BAHRAIN: Medical staff face prosecution, alleged torture after aiding anti-government protesters
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Nearly 50 doctors, nurses and other medical staff have been detained in Bahrain in connection with treating anti-government protesters, human-rights officials said Wednesday.
Those detained included 24 doctors and 23 nurses and paramedics, according to Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
“All of them were held somewhere nobody knows — we think they are in a military base,” Rajab said. ‘Reports we are receiving say that almost all of them were tortured.”
Fareeda Dallal, a medical professional married to a doctor who also was detained, appeared on Al Jazeera satellite network Tuesday with a black eye to say she had been harassed by her captors and forced to dance for them.
‘They beat me with a hose, a big hose, on the arms and the legs. They kicked me on the back, mostly slaps on the back,’ she said. ‘They were humiliating us verbally with a lot of improper words like ‘dirty Shia,’ like ‘whore,’ that we are worthless, we can’t think, we are not loyal, that we do not deserve to wear our uniform.’ On Tuesday, the leader of the Persian Gulf nation’s medical society was arrested, and the leader of the dental society was also in government custody, Rajab said.
“Most of the respected doctors are behind bars today, all suspended from their work. People are getting treated mostly at home now because the main hospitals are being occupied by the military,” he said. ‘Nobody goes to the hospital now, even those people who have been shot and have bullets inside their body. They are afraid to be arrested and tortured there.”
At a press conference on Tuesday, Bahrain’s justice minister read the charges against the medical staff, including incitement to the forceful overthrow of a political regime, dissemination of false news and malicious rumors that could harm public interest and participation in unauthorized rallies and meetings, according to the Bahrain News Agency.
Rajab said Bahrain’s security forces are clearly lashing out at medical staff for exposing the toll of the violent suppression on the populace by Bahrain’s king, Sheik Hamed ibn Isa Khalifa, documenting the number of dead and injured for the international press.
“This is the punishment for them for treating the wounded people,” Rajab said.
But he said the government detentions and repression that followed the February protests in Manama’s Pearl Square have not been limited to medical personnel.
“After the crackdown, the government targeted every group of people who supported the uprising — they targeted teachers, politicians, academics, students — all of them were targeted group by group,” Rajab said. “Many thousands of people were terminated from their jobs, their houses being raided, their money stolen, including doctors.”
Rajab called on President Obama to demand the prisoners’ release. Obama spoke with King Hamed by phone Sunday to urge leniency for four protesters sentenced to death last week in connection with the killing of two police officers during the protests.
“The international community should intervene. We see silence form the United States. There is no strong condemnation of what is going on,” he said.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo