Bahrain eases sentences for medics in protest trial

Bahrain’s appeals court acquitted nine medics and cut the jail terms of nine others on Thursday for their role in anti-regime protests last year, in a case widely criticised by rights groups.

Two others arrested in the crackdown, who remain at large, did not appeal.
The 20 doctors and nurses worked at Manama’s Salmaniya Medical complex, stormed by security forces after a crackdown on a protest encampment at the capital’s nearby Pearl Square in March 2011.

The government said nine of the defendants “were found innocent, five will be released for time served, while four that were convicted still have their right for appeal.”
The 18 who had been arrested have been free on bail since September and did not appear in court on Thursday.

Defence lawyers told AFP earlier on Thursday that those who were handed a sentence of “one year in prison or less” have already served their terms and are not expected to be re-arrested.

But judicial sources later said that only the five handed a sentence of “less than one year” will not be jailed again.

To be implemented, the “sentence is awaiting an arrest warrant from the prosecution for four defendants,” the same sources said.

Among the four, are consultant orthopaedic surgeon Ali Alekri, whose initial 15-year jail term was cut to five years, and Ibrahim al-Damstani, the Bahraini Nursing Society secretary general, sentenced to three years.

They will both have time left to serve. The other two are doctors Ghassan Daif and Saeed al-Samaheji — both of whom were sentenced to one year in prison.

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