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Bahrain court reduces sentences for 20 convicted medics

A Bahrain court on Thursday overturned or reduced the sentences for most of the 20 medical professionals 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 last year's protests. The medics were convicted in National Safety Court of Appeal, an emergency military court which was set up to address issues arising out of the protests. 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. Shortly after the convictions were handed down, the medics urged the UN to investigate claims of abuse [JURIST report] and due process violations. In the retrial, nine medics were acquitted [BBC report], seven received sentences of one year or less, and two were given sentences of three to five years. Two other medics did not appeal their convictions, and their whereabouts are unknown.

In November, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa ordered a special commission [JURIST report] to investigate a report and make recommendations after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) concluded in a report that Bahraini authorities used excessive force and tortured detained protesters during the pro-democracy demonstrations earlier that year. A Bahrain court in October began hearing the appeals [JURIST report] the 20 convicted medical staff members. They were granted the opportunity for retrial in civilian court earlier that month after their harsh sentences received international criticism. The medics were sentenced in September to terms ranging from five to 10 years [JURIST report] imprisonment for events that occurred at the medical complex.

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