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Protester gets death sentence in Bahrain

Protester gets death sentence in Bahrain

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Bahrain's special security court on Thursday sentenced a protester to death for killing a policeman, and gave doctors and nurses who treated injured protesters during the country's uprising earlier this year lengthy prison sentences, a lawyer said.

Attorney Mohsen al-Alawi said the tribunal, set up during Bahrain's emergency rule, convicted and sentenced 13 medical professionals each to 15 years in prison. In addition, two doctors were sentenced to 10 years each while five other medics got 5-year prison terms.

The harsh sentences in the two separate court cases suggest the Sunni authorities in the Gulf kingdom will not relent in pursuing and punishing those they accuse of supporting the Shiite-led opposition and participating in dissent that has roiled the tiny island nation.

Al-Alawi, who was the defense lawyer for several medics, said the 20 medical professionals, who were charged with various anti-state crimes, and the protester who got the death sentence on Thursday can all appeal their verdicts.

A Bahraini rights group identified the protester as Ali Yousef Abdulwahab al-Taweel. The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said that another suspect, Ali Attia Mahdi, was convicted on Thursday as al-Taweel's accomplice and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The tribunal's military prosecutor, Yousef Rashid Flaifel, said the two men were convicted of premeditated murder in the killing of an officer in the oil hub of Sitra. In comments to the state-run Bahrain News Agency, Flaifel said the men committed a "terror act" by running over the policeman with two cars. He didn't say when the incident occurred.

As for the case of the medics, Flaifel said they were convicted on charges that include taking part in efforts to "topple the regime," possessing "unlicensed light weapons" and "spreading fabricated stories and lies."

Human rights groups blasted the ruling against the medics and said legal proceedings against Bahrain's doctors and nurses were a "travesty of justice."

"These are simply ludicrous charges against civilian professionals who were working to save lives," said Philip Luther of Amnesty International.

Among the doctors sentenced to 15 years on Thursday was Ali al-Iqri, one of Bahrain's acclaimed surgeons who had spoken to media at the height of the unrest. Like the others, he worked in the state-run Salmaniya Medical Center in the capital Manama.

Al-Iqri was detained by security forces on March 17. He was taken from an operating theater, according to nurses and his relatives, after Bahrain's army overran the sprawling hospital complex.

Human Rights Watch last month said more than 70 medical professionals were detained during Bahrain's six-month crackdown, many from the Salmaniya hospital, a key hotspot during the revolt.

The authorities saw the hospital's mostly Shiite staff -- some of whom participated in pro-democracy street marches -- as protest sympathizers, although the medics claimed they treated all who needed care.

Earlier in September, authorities said all health professionals detained during the crackdowns had been released from custody. Some of them have also been charged for their role in anti-government protests. Their trials are still pending.

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