Bahrain’s highest court has upheld prison terms against nine medics convicted for taking part in last year’s pro-democracy uprising.
The medics were part of a group of 20 arrested last year and convicted by a military court; those convictions were upheld by a civilian tribunal in June, despite widespread criticism of the trial from international human rights groups.
The longest sentence, five years, went to Ali al-Ekry, formerly the senior medic at Salmaniya Medical Complex, the largest hospital in Bahrain. He was convicted of “possession and concealment” of weapons and “illegal assembly”.
Eight other doctors were sentenced to between one month and three years.
On Monday, the court of cassation rejected their appeals and confirmed the prison sentences, according to the state-run Bahrain News Agency.
All nine medics have been free on bail since last September, though they still face a travel ban. This was their final appeal, but it is unclear whether they will immediately be remanded to prison. “It’s always been vague in dealing with the medics issue,” al-Ekry said in an interview.
“[This case] has received wide international attention, and that’s what is making my government reluctant to implement the verdict,” he said.
Nine other doctors and nurses had their verdicts dismissed in June by the appeals court, including Rula al-Saffar, the head of Bahrain’s nursing society. She had originally been sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The court also dismissed some of the most serious charges against the doctors, including allegations that they “occupied” the hospital and possessed weapons.
Fahad Al Binali, a spokesperson for the government, said that the medics “took over” the ground floor of the hospital, a claim supported by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, the government panel established to study last year’s unrest.
“It [also] found not enough attention to patients, mistreatment of expatriates and a denial of health care,” Binali said.
But the commission’s findings were a bit more nuanced: It only received one example of a patient allegedly denied medical care, for example, and noted that “these were very turbulent days and access to SMC was difficult.” The evidence was hardly conclusive, in other words.
The commission’s report also rejected government claims that the medics gave weapons to protesters, and found that the medics were tortured while in custody. Rights groups have argued that all of the convictions should be dismissed.