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Bahrain: 15 Year Jail Sentences for Medics Who Treated Protesters

This post is part of our special coverage of Bahrain Protests 2011.

After months of detention and a hunger strike, Bahraini medics were released a month ago on bail waiting for their trials. The shock came when the court announced its verdict, sentencing them to 5 to 15 years in jail and accusing them of different charges including threatening public order, possession of weapons, invasion of the country's main hospital, the Salmaniya Medical Complex, and many other fabricated accusations that the regime and its media apparatus have imagined since Bahrain's protests started on February 14, 2011.

The doctors, who have been arrested and subjected to torture because they witnessed the atrocities committed by the state against the protesters first hand, have taken their struggle online, addressing international media and human rights organizations through Twitter and telling the world their stories in their own words.

An online invitation for a sit-in that took place Tuesday afternoon to support Bahraini medics

An online invitation for a sit-in that took place Tuesday afternoon to support Bahraini medics

Among them is Dr Nada Dhaif (@NadaDhaif), who was brave enough to talk about what she has been through in jail and send video letters through Amnesty International and BBC to the world, as part of her testimony. Dhaif, who has been sentenced to 15 years, has accused a member of the Bahraini ruling family Nourah Al-Khalifa, in her recent interviews, of torturing her and calling her “a Shia pig.”

In one of her tweets, Dhaif, who ran a makeshift clinic to treat the protesters at the Pearl or Lulu Roundabout, the epicenter of protests in Bahrain, wrote:

@NadaDhaif: Gov spokesperson said that nobody is above the law including members of the royal family. A royal family member was involved in my torture.

Another doctor sentenced to 15 years is Dr Ghassan Dhaif (@ghassandhaif), whose wife Zahra Al-Sammak (@Zahrasammak), has also been sentenced to 5 years. The couple have three children and have been tweeting about their ordeal.

Their predicament comes as a shock to a lot of people knowing that the children of this couple will live without their parents who have only practiced their job as doctors trying to save the lives of wounded protesters. The husband wrote the reaction of his children in several tweets:

@ghassandhaif: My children asked me: Baba are you going to jail for 15 years and mama for 5 years after what you have done to save lives? I broke in tears

@ghassandhaif: My children told me: Baba we are proud of you and mama coz both of you loved people and people loved you. We will wait for both of you.

An activist dressed as a doctor demonstrates in support of those arrested for helping injured protestors in Bahrain.

An activist dressed as a doctor demonstrates in support of those arrested for helping injured protestors in Bahrain. Image by Bahraini1985, copyright Demotix (10/06/2011).

Dr Al-Sammak (@Zahrasammak) tweeted about the time she spent in jail when she was arrested:

لقد عالجنا المرضى بكل مهنية وعدم انحيازلذلك قبض علينا وزج بنا في السجن وتعرضنا لأبشع أنواع التعذيب لكي نوقع على إعترافات على أشياءلم نقترفها
@Zahrasammak: We have treated patients in a professional manner and without taking sides and that's why we were arrested, put in jail, and tortured in the ugliest ways to sign on confessions for actions we haven't committed.

Dr Ali Alerki (@DrAlekri), who has also been handed a 15 year prison sentence, doesn't tweet much, but he keeps track by retweeting updates. He was famous for the video that saw him breaking into tears at Salmaniya Medical Complex after seeing all those wounded and having the hospital attacked by riot police.

DR Alerki wrote saying, a few days ago:

أسواء ما يحز في نفسي من تلك التهم اننا منعنا العلاج عن إخواننا من الطاءفة السنية وان من أحبائي من المرضى من صدق مثل تلك الأكاذيب
@DrAlekri: What really hurts me is that they charged us of refusing to treat our Sunni brothers. Unfortunately, there are some of my beloved patients who believed these lies.

One of the dedicated Twitter users for the news of Bahraini medics is (@Freedom4BahDrs) and in the following tweets, he writes down sentences from the medics’ interviews and testimonies:

@Freedom4BahDrs: Bahrain Sentenced Medics: we were prevented from calling or meeting our families. We met them only after 3 months, in bad situation.

@Freedom4BahDrs: Bahrain Detained Medics: we were prevented from showering & changing clothes for 19 days in some cases & we had bad smells coming out of our bodies.

@Freedom4BahDrs: Bahrain Detained Medics: We were prevented from sleep and forced go stand 24 hours, except for few minutes to eat.

@Freedom4BahDrs: Bahrain Detained Medics: We have been tortured physically, physiologically & threatened with rape. We were insulted for our religious beliefs.

@Freedom4BahDrs: Bahrain Detained Medics: They deliberately destroyed contents of our houses, insulted us &beaten us in front of our families.

The doctors’ trial and sentences have created an outcry, both locally and internationally, particularly since the doctors have many years of experience under their belts and are well respected among their patients and peers.

@Anarchist74 wrote saying:

@Anarchist74: You've killed & tortured. You used foreign military force. You've arrested&tortured doctors. You have expelled students. What more?

(@in_bahrain) wrote one more sad tweet in reaction of the court decision:

@in_bahrain: The best doctors, teachers, human rights advocates, entrepreneurs even handball players all in jail! Who's left?

This post is part of our special coverage of Bahrain Protests 2011.

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