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Bahrain Frees Doctors Imprisoned for Treating Protesters


UPDATE: It looks like Bahrain's war on doctors is subsiding.

The doctors and medical staff imprisoned for treating protesters in Bahrain during the Arab Spring uprisings have been released and granted new trials, the country's state-owned news agency reported Wednesday.

The country's Department of Public Prosecutions ordered them freed after studying the verdict of the special security tribunal that had convicted them of trumped-up-sounding charges such as "attempting to topple the regime." According to the news agency, Bahrain's attorney general stressed that "no doctors or other medical personnel may be punished by reason of the fulfillment of their humanitarian duties or their political views."

With their harsh sentences of up to 15 years in prison overturned, the medical workers will face a new trial in Bahrain's ordinary court system. "By virtue of the retrials, the accused will have the benefit of full reevaluation of evidence and full opportunity to present their defence," the attorney general said. The New York Times pointed out that the statement "seemed a tacit acknowledgment that the special court had denied the defendants their rights."

Human rights groups cautiously welcomed the news, the Times reported:

(They) noted that the announcement came as Congress began to evaluate the planned American sale of $53 million worth of weapons to Bahrain, including bunker-busting missiles, night-vision technology and dozens of Humvees. Human rights groups have written to Congress urging that the deal be blocked because of rights abuses in Bahrain.
Rights groups estimate that since the unrest began, at least 34 people have been killed, more than 1,400 have been arrested and as many as 3,600 have been dismissed from their jobs.

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