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Bahrain court postpones ruling on capital case appeal, resumes retrial of medics

A Bahrain [JURIST news archive] civilian court on Monday postponed its ruling on the appeals of two protesters sentenced to death [JURIST report] for the murder of police officers during anti-government protests. Also Monday, a Bahrain military tribunal resumed the retrial of 20 medical staff members [JURIST report] convicted in September of participating in the country's pro-democracy protests against the ruling regime. The 13 doctors, one dentist, nurses and paramedics who were jailed for providing treatment to injured protesters all worked at the Salmaniya Medical Complex [official website] 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 said that the medics' cases will start from scratch and the individuals should not be punished merely for their political views. The retrials [AFP report], meant to appeal sentences ranging from five to 10 years imprisonment, will be conducted before the highest civilian court in Bahrain, and the 20 will remain out of government custody, pending the outcome of their trials. The ruling on the protesters' death sentences has been rescheduled [AP report] for January 9.

Shortly after the convictions were handed down, the medics urged the UN to investigate claims of abuse [JURIST report] and due process violations. Earlier this week, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official profile] ordered a special commission [JURIST report] to look into recommendations made following an independent investigation into the alleged crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in the country. The announcement follows a report [JURIST report] released last week by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) [official website] that Bahrain authorities used excessive force and tortured detainees involved in the pro-democracy demonstrations earlier this year.

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