Editor’s note: Since the publication of this article, Dr. Ali al-Akri has been rearrested by Bahraini authorities. In addition, the article reports that prison terms handed out to the nine medics range from five to 15 years. This contradicts several other reports, which put sentences at between one month and five years, and which are consistent with the terms mentioned later in the article.
"There are scores of oppressed doctors in prison." Thus commented orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ali al-Akri on the decision issued by Bahrain’s Court of Cassation yesterday [October 1]. The decision upholds the sentences issued against nine doctors on multiple charges related to the protests that began last year in Bahrain.
In an interview with As-Safir, Akri said, "I knew the trial would be political. This decision is not judicial. We are innocent and none of the charges against us have been proven.”
The Court of Cassation had reduced Akri's sentence from 15 to five years on charges of attempting to change the political system by force and illegal means, as well as on charges of calling for, organizing and participating in rallies without notifying the relevant authorities.
Bahrain News Agency (BNA) quoted Attorney General Abdul Rahman al-Sayed as saying that the Court of Cassation has rejected all appeals submitted by the defendants and confirmed the previous rulings of prison terms raging between five and 15 years.
In this context, Mohammed al-Maskati, from the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, said that the ruling was final and could not be appealed again, adding that a royal pardon may be issued.
Akri explained that "the rulings are not new. We have been targeted ever since the start of the protests last year, and today — given the verdicts issued — there are no legal steps or action that we can take. The legal path has ended.”
Asked about the possibility of being arrested at any moment, Akri commented, "We are ready for anything. We gave everything we could for the country and its people when we treated the wounded last year, and we will continue to offer everything we can. We are fully convinced that we are innocent, and the world knows we are innocent. That's what makes the Bahraini government think twice before making such moves.”
The court had sentenced Dr. Ghassan Daif to one year in prison, Dr. Mahmoud Asghar to six months, Dr. Bassem Daif to one month, paramedic Ibrahim Dimistani to three years, Dr. Nader Diwani and Abdul Khaliq Oraibi to one month, nurse Diaa Ibrahim to two months and Dr. Said Al-Samahigi to one year.
The Court of Appeals had dropped all charges of possessing two unlicensed firearms (Kalashnikov mechanical rifles) for terrorist purposes, along with ammunition and white weapons in addition to charges of taking over a building (Sulaimaniya Medical Complex) by force, controlling all of its important divisions and departments and imposing their control over workers while forcing them to obey orders using pressure and threats.
Commenting on the rulings, Rola al-Saffar, president of the Bahrain Nursing Society — who was acquitted after previously facing the same charges as Akri — said, "I was surprised by the judgment issued by the Court of Cassation. I was hoping that there would be change and reform, and I thought that the case relating to these doctors would serve as a glimmer of hope for reform or any positive move; however, the Court of Cassation destroyed that hope."
She asked, "If nine of the medical staff who were tried in the case were acquitted, then why would the rest be sentenced? Why those nine in particular? Is it just because they spoke with the media?”
At a press conference held by the Department of Freedoms of the Al-Wefaq Society — a major association in the Bahraini opposition — department head Hadi al-Moussawi said, "The Bahraini authorities have no intention to reform, calm the public and resolve the political, security and human rights crisis. Quite the opposite is true; they continue to violate human rights through the continued use of the military apparatus, security forces and politicized trials against activists, protesters and all those who participated in the protests. The confirmation of the rulings against the medical staff is nothing but a part of these continued violations.”
The Court of Cassation's support for the rulings against the medical staff in Bahrain coincides with the postponement — until October 18 — of the case of two officers, one female and one male, accused of torturing doctors.
The case was postponed in order to allow for time to notify the defendants, file a copy of the case papers and submit a list of civil demands. The officers are accused of using torture and force to extract confessions. Moreover, the prosecution accused the female officer of the same charge for having forced two defendants to confess.
In this context, human rights advocates criticized the trial conducted before the National Safety Court.
Washington and human rights groups had criticized the ruling when it was issued last June. Amnesty International deemed it “a black day for justice.”
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