|Two Bahraini doctors embrace after tending to wounded protesters at Salmaniya Medical Complex on February 20 [GALLO/GETTY]
On September 29, 2011, a group of 20 Medics was sentenced in the Bahrain National Safety Court, a military court, to between five and 15 years in prison each. During the times of unrest in Bahrain, we honored our medical oath to treat the wounded and save lives. And as a result, we are being rewarded with unjust and harsh sentences. Thirteen Bahraini medics out of 20 received a sentence of 15 years in prison. The charges that we have being accused of are absolutely ludicrous. We are highly professional and experienced medics and specialists, and we categorically deny all charges against us.
This is the first time in the history of medicine that the medical profession has been attacked on such a large scale by any government.
Our ordeal began in mid-March when some of us were first abducted, detained for up to 6 months before we were released in early September on bail. All of us were subject to maltreatment, humiliation and violence. Most of us experienced severe forms of psychological and physical abuse during interrogation. We were coerced into making false confessions and some of these were video taped by the authorities. We believe that the whole point was to punish, intimidate and degrade us during our detention. Our sentences were a fait accompli! The government and the military judge had made up their minds that we were guilty and our sentences were preordained. The trials we have been going through are nothing but a playing card in a game of politics. The 40 defense witnesses who appeared in court did not make any difference to the judge and his verdict. We believe that the message the government is trying to deliver to the people of Bahrain and to the world through our case is that treating wounded protesters is a crime, and telling the stories of what we witnessed in the media is an even larger crime.
We have been denied the basic right to a fair trial. Most of the evidence presented to the judges in court relied on forced confessions and "secret sources". The military court heard from 26 defense witnesses, but the judges did not seem to take into account the evidence provided by any of them. The marks and bruises on the bodies of the detained medics was sufficient evidence of torture and maltreatment. But when the lawyers and
their defendants tried to deliver this evidence in court, their request was denied by the judge. That is only one example showing the unfair treatment the doctors experienced.
After we were all set free on bail by September 7, we did not talk about the pain and the suffering we endured while in detention in the hope that our release would be a turning point and the means to pave the way for the charges to be dropped. This turned out to be a mistake on our part. The blanket nature of the sentencing proves that these verdicts were preordained and politically motivated. And no longer will we keep quiet.
We condemn the local media's fabrications to distort the events that occurred inside the hospital during the unrest and tarnish the image of professional medical workers who worked tirelessly to treat the sick and wounded.
We are a group of professional doctors, nurses and paramedics who have worked hard over many years to reach the highest standards in the medical profession. We are proud to have served the needs of all communities across Bahrain. Our only crime was that during the unrest earlier this year we were outspoken witnesses to the bloodshed and the brutal treatment by the security forces. We tried our best to provide medical care to all of those who entered Salmaniya Medical Hospital, the main hospital in the country and other places across Bahrain. And as a result, we are now paying a heavy price.
We know for a fact that the international community, particularly human rights organizations and doctors all over the world followed our case closely and spoke out on our behalf when we were mistreated and silenced. We are sincerely grateful to them and to everybody who has supported us from the beginning. We have decided to break the wall of fear and take a step forward to share with the world our stories of struggle, pain and suffering. We urge you all to continue supporting our fight for justice and freedom. We pray to God Almighty that our families find the strength to make it through this difficult time, especially our children who have had to endure the unnecessary and painful absence of their parents. We would like to thank our colleagues who continue to provide health care to those who are in need, despite the extremely difficult and dangerous situation in Bahrain. We are confident that in the end justice will prevail and every free soul in this country will breathe fresh air of freedom.