Irish-trained surgeon given five-year jail sentence in Bahrain

 

AN IRISH-TRAINED surgeon has been given a five-year sentence in Bahrain for his role in an uprising in the country last year.

An appeals court convicted Ali al-Ekri and eight other medical professionals, handing out sentences of between one month and five years.

Only two are expected to serve terms in prison; Dr Ekri (five years) and Ebrahim al-Demestani (three years).

Also among those convicted are two other Irish-trained surgeons who were given one-year and one-month sentences; they were, respectively, Ghassan Dhaif and his brother, Bassim Dhaif.

Neither is expected to serve any more time as they have already been detained for longer than their new sentence.

Nine doctors were acquitted of any wrongdoing, including Nada Dhaif, chair of the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti Violence Organisation (Bravo).

At a briefing at the Mansion House in Dublin, she called on the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) to condemn the sentences handed down to the doctors yesterday.

“It’s not like the jails or prison in the modern world where a criminal goes in and gets rehabilitation,” Dr Dhaif said. “It is a facility used to punish and torture people. People are punished there for freedom of expression.

“I lost a year-plus of my life fighting this regime,” she added.

Dr Dhaif claims the Bahraini authorities kept her in solitary confinement, beat her, electrocuted her, spat at her, intimidated her to sign confessions and threatened to rape her.

While she said she fears persecution on returning to Bahrain, Dr Dhaif will go there in the coming weeks to continue her campaign.

The doctor said her colleagues were jailed for speaking out against the Bahraini government and that she was personally prosecuted for talking to the press during the uprising.

Yesterday’s appeal comes after 20 medical personnel were given prison sentences ranging from five to 15 years in September of last year, on charges including occupying a hospital with weapons and trying to topple the Bahraini government.

The RCSI yesterday issued a statement saying all medical personnel should be released.

“The RCSI welcomes the release of a number of healthcare professionals. However, the college very much regrets the decision of the Bahraini government to sentence a number of medical personnel to terms in prison,” the statement said.

The college said the Bahraini government needed to show humanity by withdrawing the sentences. “We ask King Hamad to release those medics who have been sentenced or imprisoned. We are determined to contribute to the future of Bahrain by providing high-quality medical and nursing education in a non-sectarian environment to our more than 1,000 students,” the statement said.

“We will help them to reach their potential and so as to maximize future opportunities, irrespective of their background,” the college’s statement added.

Mohammed Aljaziri (16), who attended the briefing with Dr Dhaif, said he lost an eye during a protest against the Bahraini regime.

Speaking through a translator yesterday, he said he was protesting when the police shot him in the face with a crowd-control gun. He is now receiving medical treatment in Ireland.

The Bahraini government has said the retrial was part of a reform programme.

A government panel, the Bahrain Commission of Inquiry, found that medical staff were tortured while in custody.

Two medical personnel who did not apply for appeal, Qassim Omran and Ali Al Sadadi, both have 15-year sentences awaiting them. However, both are reportedly out of the country and have no intention of returning.

Those acquitted were Zahra Al Sammak, Fatima Haji, Nada Dhaif, Rula Al Saffar, Najah Khalil, Ahmed Omran, Mohammed Al Shehabi, Sayed Marhoon and Hassan Tooblani.