Middle East

Bahrain medics' convictions overturned by appeals court

GCC troops guard an entrance to Salmaniya Hospital in Manama (March 2011)
Image caption The medics, who worked at Salmaniya Hospital, were arrested in night-time raids

Twenty-one medics arrested at a hospital during anti-government protests in Bahrain two years ago have had their convictions quashed.

They had been found guilty last November of misdemeanours after treating protesters injured by police clearing a landmark in the capital.

The medics and 28 of their colleagues were arrested in April 2011 when the country was under martial law.

They alleged they were tortured and coerced into making false confessions.

The confessions were used to convict them before military tribunals.

Of the 28 others, most have been acquitted by a civilian court but three remain in jail and several of those acquitted have not been allowed to return to their work as doctors.

The group had worked at Bahrain's main hospital, the Salmaniya Medical Complex.

The acquittals were welcomed by observers.

"A year after their trial started, two years after the alleged incidents, these medics have finally been vindicated after being mistreated or tortured in custody," Brian Dooley of Human Rights First told the BBC.

Dr Fatima Haji, a rheumatologist who worked at Salmaniya and was earlier cleared of felony charges, said Thursday's acquittals were a "first step".

"People need to be reinstated to their jobs, they need to be compensated for the abuse they suffered," she added

Dr Haji was among doctors in the Accident and Emergency unit who assisted the protesters injured when police used force to clear Pearl Roundabout.

An appeal court overturned her conviction and five-year jail sentence but she has not been offered her job back at Salmaniya.

Dr Haji argued that those responsible for the arrests, including senior members of the government, were still not being held accountable.

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