Bahrain policeman wounded as charges over medic case are filed

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 07, 2012 9:19 AM
Bahrain policeman wounded as charges over medic case are filed

DUBAI (Reuters) - A petrol bomb attack on a patrol of Bahraini policemen seriously wounded one officer, the state news agency said on Tuesday, the latest in a series of attacks police in the Gulf Arab state say they have suffered in recent months.

The policeman was part of a foot patrol in the Bani Jamra district, west of the capital Manama, said the state's BNA news agency. It said he had suffered medium burns all over his body and had been taken to hospital for treatment.

The public prosecutor's office also said this week that 15 people "of all levels of responsibility" - thought to be security officials - would face charges for the mistreatment of medics, an apparent reference to a case in which a group of doctors said they had been tortured during their detention ahead of a military trial last year.

Bahrain has been in turmoil since a pro-democracy uprising erupted in February 2011 after revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. Although the authorities have managed to stop further mass protests convulsing the capital, unrest has continued as majority Shi'ites often clash with police in Shi'ite districts.

Led by the Sunni Al Khalifa family, the government said last week that 700 policemen had been hurt in the violence.

Opposition groups say over 45 people have died due to clashes since a period of martial law ended in June last year, though the government says many of those deaths were not linked to the unrest.

Last week, an international human rights group accused the Bahraini government of indiscriminate use of tear gas against protesters resulting in the maiming, blinding, and killing of civilians. The government dismissed those charges.

MEDICS CASE

Shi'ite doctors became embroiled in the uprising last year, treating thousands of protesters and expressing sympathy with the protest movement in comments to media at the time.

The statement from the prosecutor's office, published in the daily al-Wasat newspaper on Monday, appeared to refer to the case of 20 doctors and nurses from the Salmaniya complex who were last year charged with occupying a hospital, incitement to overthrow the monarchy, and possessing weapons.

Many of the doctors and nurses said they had been tortured during their detention and forced to make confessions for state television that were never aired.

"Fifteen suspects of all levels of responsibility were questioned and charges filed against them, and procedures are underway for final preparation of the case," the statement said.

The medics were released and the case was retried in a civilian court where most of the charges were dropped.

However, in June nine were found guilty of charges including inciting hatred, calling for the overthrow of the state's rulers, and making statements to media from inside the hospital.

A rights commission led by international legal experts said in November that torture had been used systematically against hundreds of people arrested during the period when martial law was in force.

Last week, during a Congressional hearing on Bahrain, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner expressed disappointment that only nine policemen had been brought to trial so far over claims of abuse during that time.

(Writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Andrew Osborn)