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April 09, 2014

State Department Raises Cases of Bahrain Medics

At today’s U.S. State Department press briefing, spokesperson Jen Psaki confirmed that it had “voiced concerns” to Bahraini authorities over the prosecution of two Bahrain medics, which we reported on yesterday.

The cases involve doctors who were arrested in 2011. Dr Saeed Al Samahiji was sentenced last week to a year in prison for insulting the king, and Dr. Fatima Haji was accused by the Public Prosecutor’s office yesterday of insulting the Ministry of the Interior for an interview she gave on French TV station France 24 about the side effects of tear gas used by the Bahrain police.

Voice of America reporter Scott Stearns asked about the cases and State Department Ms Psaki confirmed that “..we’ve repeatedly voiced concerns about legal action taken against medical professionals including in these cases…”  Listen to the exchange here.

In September 2011, Dr. Al Samahiji and Dr. Haji were convicted along with 18 other medics after treating injured protesters during the uprising and telling the international media about the cause of the injuries. After being tortured into signing false confessions, the 20 medics were convicted by a military court and sentenced to between five and 15 years in jail. Following an international outcry, nine of those convicted, including Dr. Haji, were acquitted in June 2012 and others had sentences reduced. Dr. Al Samahiji spent a year in prison. Two other medics convicted in that case, Dr. Ali Alekry and Dr. Ibrahim Demastani, are still serving prison sentences. Another 27 medics were tried in a separate case.

Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government to publicly push for the release of political prisoners in Bahrain and to include all key opposition leaders in negotiations for reform.