Bahrain [JURIST news archive] on Wednesday announced retrials will be given to 20 medical staff convicted last month of participating in the country's pro-democracy protests against the ruling regime. Dr. Ali al-Boainain, Bahrain's attorney general, stated that the department of public prosecution had studied the judgment rendered against the 20 Shiite medics by the National Safety Court of Appeal and determined that the cases should be retried in the civilian courts [AFP report]. The 13 doctors, one dentist, nurses and paramedics who were jailed for providing treatment to injured protesters all worked at the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama, which was stormed by security forces in March after they drove protesters out of the nearby Pearl Square—the focal point of protests inspired by uprisings that have swept the Arab world. Among other terrorism charges, the 20 were accused of having possession of an AK-47, Molotov cocktails and other weapons for the purposes of ousting the ruling regime, confiscating medical equipment, spreading lies, inciting hatred against the regime and violating various other laws and regulations with an aim to disturb public security. The prosecutor stated that the medics' cases will start from scratch and the individuals should not be punished merely for their political views. The retrials will be conducted before the highest civil court in Bahrain, and the 20 will remain out of government custody, pending the outcome of their trials. The National Safety Court of Appeal, a court composed of military prosecutors and civilian and military judges, was set up in the wake of the March crackdown on pro-democracy protests led by the Shiite majority against the Sunni ruling family.
Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official profile] announced in August that he will dismiss charges against some of the protesters [JURIST report] detained for their participation in pro-democracy demonstrations in the country. In June, Khalifa announced that an independent commission will investigate human rights violations [JURIST report] related to the country's pro-democracy protests. Earlier that month, the OHCHR announced that Bahrain agreed to permit a UN commission [JURIST report] to investigate human rights violations related to protests. The National Safety Courts were instituted in mid-March under Khalifa's three-month state of emergency [JURIST report] and have been internationally criticized, most recently [JURIST report] by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The court sentenced nine citizens [JURIST report] to 20 years in prison for kidnapping a police officer in May. In April, the court handed the death sentence to four protesters, a rarity in Bahrain, and upheld the sentences [JURIST reports] for two of the men who were accused of murdering police officers. All of the charges levied in the National Safety Court have been disputed by Bahraini citizens and international rights organizations.