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Middle East
Bahrain medics on trial over protests
Trial of 48 medical workers accused of attempting to topple the monarchy opens amid condemnation by rights groups.
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2011 09:04

Bahrain has begun the trials of 48 medical professionals accused of attempting to topple the monarchy.

Those on trial include some of the country's top surgeons, accused of supporting weeks of pro-democracy protests in the country.

It is the latest trial at a special security tribunal set up by Bahrain's rulers amid a far-reaching crackdown in the kingdom, which is home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet.

Human rights organisations have condemned the trials, saying the staff are being hounded for treating hundreds of wounded protesters.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, David Michalski, of Medecins Sans Frontiers, said the move had far-reaching consequences for patients in Bahrain.

Salmaniya Hospital, Bahrain's main state-run hospital, was the scene of anti-government protests during the unrest that began in February.

"The hospital became politicised. And then in the middle of March it became militarised in the military crackdown," Michalski said.


Adel al-Mo'awda, parliament's deputy chairperson, and Nabeel Rajab, of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, discuss the trials

"The net effect of this, including the detention of the doctors and the medical personnel, the net effect for the patient is some patients are very fearful, and they don't know where to go when they are sick and injured, [or] if they are injured in these protests."

Michalski said wounded patients should be entitled to treatment, regardless of "what side" they were on.

"Medical personnel should be allowed to deliver that treatment in an impartial manner," he said.

Bahrain is ruled and dominated by a Sunni minority, Bahrain has a Shia majority population. Tension between the two communities has been festering for years.

To balance the population, the government is accused of granting thousands of citizenships to Sunni workers.

Bahrain, a US ally that hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, called in troops from its fellow Sunni-led Gulf neighbour Saudi Arabia to help it crush the pro-democracy protests in March.

The kingdom's rulers blamed sectarianism and Iran's manipulation of the protests.

The country's Sunni leaders, however, lifted military-run emergency laws in June 1 in a bid for talks with Shia groups and other opposition factions.

But Shia leaders insist that authorities must ease security pressures and protest-linked trials before dialogue can occur.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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