A Bahraini doctor who was sentenced to one year in prison last week for his alleged participation in anti-government activity has begun a hunger strike to protest the conviction. Saeed al-Samaheeji said he started the hunger strike [AP report] to protest the false accusations that have led to his conviction. Al-Samaheeji is one of 20 medical professionals convicted in September [JURIST report] of participating in the country's pro-democracy protests against the ruling regime. Last week, a Bahrain court overturned or reduced the sentences [JURIST report] for most of the medical professionals. Nine were acquitted, nine received reduced sentences of one to five years, and two who fled the country did not appeal their 15-year sentences. The medics have maintained that they were only taking care of injured patients, regardless of their political beliefs. They were convicted in National Safety Court of Appeal, an emergency military court which was set up to address issues arising out of the protests. 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 trial. Al-Smaheeji told reporters on Thursday that he and the other convicted doctors are innocent of the charges against them.
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 last year's 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. A Bahrain civilian court in October began hearing the appeals [JURIST report] of the medics. 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.