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Middle East
Bahrain medics freed on bail
Special court orders release after more than a hundred detainees go on a hunger strike in protest ongoing trials.
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2011 09:39
Security forces, backed by troops from Bahrain's Gulf neighbours, crushed the protest movement [EPA]

A special Bahraini court has released on bail 20 Shia Muslim medics being tried for their role in a month-long pro-democracy protest, including many who had gone on hunger strike, according to the state news agency, BNA.

The national safety court said late on Wednesday that the verdict for medics would be issued on September 29.

The court was set up under a three-month quasi-emergency law declared by King Hamad ahead of the mid-March crackdown on the protest led by the Shia majority in the Gulf island state.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, lauded the special court's decision to release the doctors and drivers, but she called for the need to use civil courts.

Ashton "again urges the Bahraini authorities to conduct all trials of civilians in civilian courts, with due process and full rights to a fair and transparent trial, as promised by His Majesty King Hamad last month," a statement from her office said on Thursday.

She added that she anticipates "the upcoming conclusions of the independent Commission of Inquiry on the events surrounding the unrest earlier this year."

'Incitement to hatred'

More than 100 detainees are on hunger strike, 17 of whom were hospitalised by the interior ministry after their health deteriorated, according to the Bahrain Commission of Inquiry.

Bahraini authorities had charged 24 doctors and 23 nurses - including several women, who had worked at Manama's central Salmaniya hospital, of incitement to overthrow the regime.

In addition, they were accused of "incitement to hatred of a regime, incitement to hatred of a segment of society, dissemination of false news and malicious rumours that could harm public interest and participation in unauthorised rallies and meetings."

They were rounded up in the wake of the heavy-handed security clampdown which forcefully drove protesters out of Manama's central Pearl Square that became the focal point of anti-government protests for a month, before being razed.

Many claim to have been tortured in custody.

Reforms promised

The national safety court has a mixed military and civil panel. But King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa last month promised that all Bahrainis on trials related to protests will see their verdicts issued by a civil court.

Authorities said in May that 405 detainees have been referred to courts, while 312 were released.

On Tuesday, the Military Public Prosecutor adjourned the trial of 21 Bahrainis accused of an abortive coup d'état against the Bahrain Government, Bahrain's information affairs authority said in a statement on Thursday.

The National Safety Court of Appeal heard the demands of the defendants' lawyers and decided to adjourn the trial until 28th September for an announcement of the Courts verdict, the statement said.

Bahrain's interior ministry says 24 people, including four policemen, were killed in the month-long protests that erupted in mid-February.
 
Security forces backed by troops from Bahrain's Gulf neighbours crushed the protest movement.
 
The opposition says that scores of people were arrested, and many of them tortured. Hundreds more were dismissed from their jobs.
 
Four people have been sentenced to death and three to life imprisonment after being convicted of the killing of two policemen during the protests.
 
Nine others were jailed for 20 years after being found guilty of abducting a policeman.

Source:
Agencies
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