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19-06-2012 - Gulfnews

Health professionals in Bahrain acquitted of political charges Appeal court acquits nine medics, reduces sentences

A Bahraini court on Thursday acquitted nine of the 20 health professionals on trial and sentenced the others to terms that ranged between one month and five years.

The Court of Appeals, reviewing the rulings issued last year that ranged between five and 15 years, sentenced Ali Al Ekri to five years and Ebrahim Al Demistani to three years.

Seven medical staff who were also arrested in March and April 2011 were sentenced to shorter prison terms that do not exceed one year while nine others were acquitted. Two of the defendants were tried in absentia.

The charge offences against the health professionals from the Salmaniya Medical Complex, Bahrain's largest hospital, ranged from "attempting to occupy a public hospital using force" to "attempting to topple the political regime by force".

The medics have been out of detention during their appeal.

Meanwhile, King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa has warned of a zero-tolerance response to the denigration of the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF). "We have these days heard about voices and platforms fueling hatred and abusing freedom of expression," King Hamad said. "The matter has worsened to the point of disrespecting the Bahrain Defence Force. Our armed forces are the protectors of the nation's achievements and everybody must know that whoever disrespects the forces or its leaders is in fact abusing us," the monarch said as he visited the BDF headquarters and met the top brass on Wednesday. King Hamad who founded the BDF in 1968 while he was crown prince, said that no irreverence towards Bahrain's beliefs, social values and armed forces in the name of freedom of opinion would be accepted.

The relevant executive agencies have to take action to address violations in accordance with the law, he said.

King Hamad said that Bahrainis could reach a solution to the issues facing them, but insisted that it had to be homegrown.

"We are also confident that the people of Bahrain, thanks to their patriotism and to the spirit of the reforms, are able to address all issues within a positive, purely patriotic and constructive dialogue that seeks Bahraini solutions, and not foreign ones," he said. "We do hope that everybody will think of Bahrain's interests and will keep the domestic issues away from international conflicts in which we play no part."

 

Gulf union

 

For King Hamad, local efforts should focus on getting ready for the Gulf union, the bold plan announced by Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz to move the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) founded in 1981 from the phase of cooperation to the phase of a union within a single entity.

"It is our duty to prepare ourselves and our beloved Bahrain for the forthcoming phase of Arab Gulf union," he said. "It is the way forward towards further well-being and prosperity."

Manama and Riyadh have repeatedly voiced strong enthusiasm for the union, seeing it as the natural evolution of the cooperation and relations between the six member states - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The need for more time by some countries for further studies of the union could push Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and possibly Qatar to adopt a two-way speed for the union that allows them to announce their union while the others could join at a later date.

Bahrainis supporting the union are keen on a formal announcement by the time the GCC leaders convene for their annual summit in Manama in

 

Other sources on GCC civil society and human rights