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Bahraini doctors face trial for treating anti-government protesters

47 doctors and nurses are arraigned at a closed hearing, accused of participating in the Shiite demonstrations.

A Bahraini military medical worker treats a patient in Riffa, Bahrain. 47 medical professionals have been charged with participating in the anti-government demonstrations.
A Bahraini military medical worker treats a patient in Riffa, Bahrain. 47 medical professionals have been charged with participating in the anti-government demonstrations.
Image: Hasan Jamali/AP

DOZENS OF DOCTORS and nurses who treated injured anti-government protesters during the political unrest in Bahrain have gone on trial in a security court, on allegations they participated in efforts to overthrow the Gulf country’s monarchy.

The 47 health professionals were arraigned during a closed hearing in a security court, which itself was authorised under emergency rule in mid-March to crush weeks of demonstrations by Bahrain’s Shiite majority.

The medical workers were charged with participating in efforts to topple the Sunni monarchy and taking part in illegal rallies. Other charges against the doctors and nurses, most of whom treated injured protesters in the state-run Salmaniya Medical Complex in the capital, Manama, include harming the public by spreading false news and denying medical attention to several Sunni patients.

The prosecution is a sign that Bahrain’s Sunni rulers will not end their relentless pursuit of the Shiite-led opposition, despite officially lifting emergency rule last week.

Only select journalists are allowed to cover the trials in the security court after authorities put a gag order on legal proceedings against suspected opposition supporters. Only select family members were allowed to attend. Another hearing in the case is set for June 13.

Formula 1 difficulties

The ongoing upheavals in the Gulf state may yet mean the cancellation of the country’s Formula 1 Grand Prix, which last week was returned to the 2011 race calendar for the end of October.

Although that decision came on the back of a unanimous vote of the World Motor Sport Council, the Daily Telegraph reports that F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is now seeking a re-vote as he believes the race will not be viable.

That move comes despite the insistence of FIA president Jean Todt that the country – which he described as being inherently “peaceful” – was ready to hold the race, which was originally scheduled for March.

The race has the potential to become a political flashpoint given the role of the royal family – in particular the Crown Prince – in lobbying for Formula One to be brought to the Middle East. Bahrain was the first country in the Middle East to hold a F1 grand prix, in 2004.

Additional reporting by AP

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Gavan Reilly

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